Why Supervising Dogs and Kids Doesn’t Work

It’s sound advice given frequently:  Supervise your dogs and kids while they are together. Breeders warn parents, “Don’t leave the dog alone with children, no matter how friendly the breed.” Veterinarians advise, “Never leave a dog and a child in the same room together.” Dog trainers explain, “All dogs can bite so supervise your dog when you have children over.”  Everyone knows the drill.  So why doesn’t it work?  Why are there an estimated 800,000 Americans seeking medical attention for dog bites each year, with over half of these injuries to children ages 5-9?

Note the good intention of the kids. Note the closed mouth and half-moon eye of the dog.  Intervene!

Note the good intentions of the kids. Note the closed mouth and half-moon eye of the dog. Intervene.

The bites are not a result of negligent parents leaving Fido to care for the baby while mom does household chores, oblivious to the needs of her children.  In fact, I’ve consulted on hundreds of dog bite cases and 95% of the time the parent was standing within 3 feet of the child watching both child and dog when the child was bitten. Parents are supervising. The problem is not lack of supervision. The problem is no one has taught parents what they should be watching.

Parents generally have not received any education on what constitutes good dog body language and what constitutes an emergency between the dog and the child.  Parents generally have no understanding of the predictable series of canine body cues that would indicate a dog might bite.  And complicating matters further, most parents get confused by the good intentions of the child and fail to see when a dog is exhibiting signs of stress. The good new is all of this is easy to learn! We can all get better at this.

Here is a simple list to help you improve your supervision skills:

  • Watch for loose canine body language. Good dog body language is loose, relaxed, and wiggly.  Look for curves in your dog’s body when he is around a child.  Stiffening and freezing in a dog are not good. If you see your dog tighten his body, or if he moves from panting to holding his breath (he stops panting), you should intervene.  These are early signs that your dog is not comfortable.
  • Watch for inappropriate human behavior. Intervene if your child climbs on or attempts to ride your dog. Intervene if your child pulls the ears, yanks the tail, lifts the jowls or otherwise pokes and prods the dog. Don’t marvel that your dog has the patience of Job if he is willing to tolerate these antics. And please don’t videotape it for YouTube! Be thankful your dog has good bite inhibition and intervene before it’s too late.
  • Watch for these three really easy to see stress signals in your dog.  All of them indicate you should intervene and separate the child and dog:
    • Yawning outside the context of waking up
    • Half-moon eye – this means you can see the whites on the outer edges of your dog’s eyes.
    • Lip licking outside the context of eating food
  • Watch for avoidance behaviors. If your dog moves away from a child, intervene to prevent the child from following the dog.  A dog that chooses to move away is making a great choice.  He’s saying, “I don’t really want to be bothered, so I’ll go away.”  However, when you fail to support his great choice and allow your child to continue to follow him, it’s likely the dog’s next choice will be, “Since I can’t get away, I’ll growl or snap at this kid to get the child to move away.”  Please don’t cause your dog to make that choice.
  • Listen for growling. I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard parents say, “Oh, he growled all the time but we never thought he would bite.”  Dog behavior, including aggression, is on a continuum. For dogs, growling is an early warning sign of aggression. Heed it.  If growling doesn’t work, the dog may escalate to snapping or biting. Growling is a clue that you should intervene between the dog and the child.

To pet owners, particularly those who also have children, thank you for supervising your dog! As a dog trainer and mother of two, I know that juggling kids and dogs is no easy feat.  It takes patience, understanding, and a great deal of supervision. I hope these tips will help you get better at supervising.

If you want more information about this topic, a great resource is Colleen Pelar’s book Living With Kids and Dogs Without Losing Your MindLiving With Kids and Dogs

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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386 thoughts on “Why Supervising Dogs and Kids Doesn’t Work

  1. My daughter is 15. We rescued a puppy….lab, retriever, pit mix.he can be pretty hyper at times. She is really good to him and they gey along great without seeing any stress signs. We have been having a problem for about a month whether we are in the room or not . When jess simply walks through a room to get something, he chases after her and latches on to relaxed hand and wont let go. Usually a parent has to intervene. When we do, he stops immediately and goes away. She is becoming afraid if the dog and wont stay with him when we go out to run an errand. Tried a water bottle…quick spray of water….he moves to a downward dog position like we are playing and sometimes a growl comes out. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Unfortunately a squirt in the face doesnt give your dog the proper information it needs for the situation. Have you tried teaching your dog an alternative behaviour? For example, when your daughter get up to get something, get her to put your dog into a downstay before she leaves the room and reward with praise/play/food upon return.

      • Hi, I echo what some others have said. Get professional help, or at least structured obedience training. Often in a class, the teacher can alert you to behaviors that you may be missing. If your daughter is 15, and this is a “puppy” who is grabbing her hand as she walks by and not letting go, then this is not a young puppy. You didn’t mention the age, but if it’s tall enough to grab a teens hand and hold onto it, then it’s not playing young puppy games. This is time to intervene before it escalates, and water is not a great solution in the long run.

        • I’ll echo this as well. We actually had a terrier who began to do this as a child to myself – it was never aggressive, but he’d run up and “hold on” to my wrist and one day I just didn’t do anything in protest, and he toured me around the house. That being said, we sought out professional help to ensure we were using positive methods to teach him the appropriate behavior and sending him the right signals, and he stopped. Often, if it’s attention-seeking, her freaking out and you guys intervening just confirms for him that it does indeed get him attention. I wish I remember what method we learned, but I was about 9 at the time and I’ve plum forgot. But agreed, often even a water spray comes too late no matter how responsive, and he associates it with something else and thinks this is a delightful game. He means no harm, but this is something to seek a trainer for. The good news is they can likely give you all the tools you need in 1 session, so it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg! :)

      • I have standard poodles and whippets. The standard poodles are very “mouthy” and my youngest one (1-1/2 years) always wants my hand in her mouth. The older one (9 years) still wants to grab my hand when I’m wearing gloves. They are very well trained (obedience & Rally titles) & very good dogs. I attribute this mouthiness to the retriever genes in them. The whippets have NEVER shown this trait. I would give the dog the benefit of the doubt in this case & use some retrieving toy to throw as a distraction. Play retrieve & give with him.

        • Oh – one more thing: I have found that 15 year-old girls are infinitely harder to “train” than any dog I’ve ever had.

    • Dogs like to play and it seems that this dog is trying to initiate play. When I was a teen we had a female Keeshond that we rescued as an adult. I would play a wrestling game with her inside where I wore a heavy sweat shirt with the arm pulled over my hand. Penny would grab my arm and pull. When I needed to stop Penny was always able to stop and never tried to continue. She and I also played tag outside where we would run. She would grab the cuff of my pants and I would tap her on the back.

    • Hi Holly, I think the best advice as mentioned already is to get some basic obedience training for your dog. I would check out http://www.apdt.com to find a trainer in your area. That being said, a couple of other things to consider: I would make sure your puppy is getting enough exercise (at least 2 times for a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise where someone is playing with him or walking him – just hanging out in the backyard doesn’t count.) You might also try teaching your daughter how to get the puppy to sit (I would use a treat for this game) and then use the sit cue to get the dog to stop grabbing her arms. An adult will likely need to help the first few times, but the goal is to get the puppy to sit and wait for a treat when your daughter comes in the room. (This is mentioned by Sarah too when she talks about an alternative behavior). And if you really need a distraction, you can give your puppy a food-dispensing toy to keep himself occupied when your daughter is in the same room. This can help buy some time until you get more formal training. Hope that helps.

    • I’m no great expert, but it sounds as though the dog is trying to get your daughter to play. The dog is a cross of three high-energy and high-intelligence breeds, so it needs lots of play and challenge, or it will get bored and LOOK for mental challenge and physical release–and will probably find ways you won’t like!

      I’d also say that at 15, your daughter is old enough to take some responsibility. I’d suggest making training the dog her job–get her books, videos, perhaps enroll her and the dog in an obedience class with HER as the handler.

      • I have to say this is probably the best advice I have seen. Get the daughter involved in the training. One thing you didn’t says is how hard is the dog latching on? Your daughter needs to tell the dog “NO” the second he tries to do it. She needs to make the dog understand that she is in charge. The more she fears the dog, the worse it will get. It does sound like he is trying to play with her. I rescued a dog that did that to me. I have taught to stop by telling him no when he tries and then rewarding him as he listens.

    • Holly if your daughter becomes more fear of the dog then the dog won!! See if jess can yell ouch like it really hurts!!! Dogs can tell if there is a little fear. Maybe Jess has had a little fear from the beginning. Have Jess feed and walk the dog so the new dog sees her as part of the pack. Water bottles or Ceasar Milan will not work. he is not a positive trainer. Watch it’s me or the dog!! Work on this as soon as possibly because the more you wait the worse it will be. you are 2 months behind on the dog ( not 1 month) in the dogs eyes. i worked at a rescue for 9 years i learned a lot about body language and so fourth. Feel free to email me renee.renfro@yahoo.com! I hope this helps!!!

    • Yes, it sounds like he wants to play. But it also sounds like there is some dominance in the behaviour of your dog, and that can become dangerous in the long run. A dog should respect all humans in the family and not be the one who decide when to play.

      I recommend you to contact a good professional in dog education that can help you create a healthy relationship with your dog, where all humans in the family are respected as higher in rank.

      • A very common issue, and while basic obedience training will always help, this is likely a simple behavior issue where a good dog trainer can show you how to change this and likely other similar things that will be coming up over time. Some people here have mentioned pieces of what’s needed, but a trainer should give you the whole picture, then watch you carry it out to make sure you’re sending the right message to the dog. That last is where many people go wrong.

        And the solution needs to fit the problem. While a sit command was mentioned and is fine for a dog who will do a relaxed sit, many puppies have not learned to hold that and as soon as you move will pop up and repeat the problem. In that case an active and satisfying alternate behavior can be used to make them all happy.

      • Yelping, or saying ouch may work perfectly with a non-bully dog, but might excite a “good” pit bull into biting more.
        This case sounds like a horrific situation in the making.
        Bites and won’t let go?
        Six month old pit puppies have killed.
        Keep two degrees of safety between the pit and the human.
        Google “break sticks” /tent stakes and know how to use them.

        • Gee, Debbie. Break sticks? (How do you know about them anyway?) Why play it so safe? Why not just advise getting a gun? Holly, please don’t listen to Debbie. It is not necessary to fear your dog and anticipate a horrific outcome, especially when what you describe is a dog trying to initiate play. I agree, it’s time for a good trainer for your pup and for you (parents) and your daughter. It seems as if you already are learning to read your dog’s body language, but need some help training your dog (and his humans) and to move into more advanced interpretation of the more subtle cues exhibited by your pup. This is knowledge most pet owners do not possess and can lead to the development of undesirable behaviors. Everyone will be so much happier with a well trained dog and your dog will be much happier with you “speaking dog”. Besides, it’s fun.

          • I raise working breed dogs and they are all almost 100 lbs each. I have a broom in my living room that if my girls were to get into a fight, I could use it to break up a fight. While I don’t condone “break sticks” per say, my broom just might save the life of my dog if they got into an “argument” one day. I know that I am not going to stick my hand/arm in the middle of a fight to separate 2 dogs that are going at it. It does on occasion happen when dealing with multiple dogs…especially if a couple of them are intact. However, I NEVER set my dogs up for failure and always try and take notice of when one is in season so I can keep her separate. Being a trainer, the dog in the article needs a private trainer so behavior modification can be done. This really does not sound like something that an obedience class can fix. I don’t necessarily agree with the article that ALL dogs are unpredictable with children and can’t be left unsupervised. One of mine (yes, a large working breed) has been trained to be a therapy dog especially for children and elderly. The training started when she was 10 weeks old and she was a full therapy dog at 11 months old. I have trusted her with my grand daughters with no problem. I think this dog is the exception not the norm though.

          • The fact that the dog has growled when they have tried to correct the behavior (and latches on to a 15 year old teen’s hand), is a red flag, and is more likely a dominance issue, as opposed to a dog trying in initiate play. They need a professional trainer to witness the situation and provide the appropriate guidance.

          • I’m with this. I used to be a trainer who rehabilitated neglect/abuse cases of all breeds for adoption at a large animal welfare society — and this is a very over-the-top reaction (and no offense, breeding dogs is not the same as training dogs).

            The growls are not necessarily mean. Given they have called him a puppy, it’s quite likely this is simply his vocalization to incite play – they even state he’s in a play bow position when he does it. Often, if a puppy isn’t taught early that games that evoke grr’s are not appreciated, they do it for life. We have a rescued dog who was never taught that, and though he plays gentle, he growls and chatters through play the entire time (he growls at his ball when chasing it, he growls at his chews when chewing, he’s a bit ridiculous). The teenager is a source of fun and stimulation (in his mind), and he’s doing his best to engage and interact. The more she reacts, the more he feels she really is a toy and someone to play games with. This sounds like a simple communication issue that turned a few tugs into a “game” — so now seeking a POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT trainer can help them make the right corrections to give him the right message that this isn’t the game to play — and options as to the games that are okay.

        • Please ignore her. I have a half-pit mutt and another bully breed mutt, and her idea that yelping or saying ouch won’t work (and her underlying implication that bully breeds and especially pits are more aggressive) is WRONG.

          • Actually her comment is spot on. Bully breeds are chosen by dog fighters for that very reason. They don’t fight with poodles now do they?

          • I’ve seen golden retrievers come in from fighting rings — take the “right” tools and you can train nearly any dog to fight. Please don’t go spoiling views of an entire breed based on the fact they are most commonly owned by bad owners. And as a correction — no. “Bully Breeds” are not chosen by dog fighters because they are more aggressive. They are chosen because – like ALL terriers (right down to your precious Jack Russell and Yorkshire) – they have a higher prey drive. PREY. Not human aggression, and animal-aggression is not the same as human-aggression. In fact, it is their natural docile temperament toward children that made them America’s “Nanny Dog” for centuries, and their same temperament and forgiving nature toward rough handlers (and eagerness to please, intelligence/ease to train, and stocky muscular build) that made them “ideal” for dog fighters. A dog who bites you when you teach it fighting skills, or attacks you when you reach into a pit to halt/start a fight, is not what they want. Same for why Mastiffs (now viewed as ‘gentle giants’) used to be the top choice — but their massive size led to slower motions in fighting and a larger cost to keep/treat, so the villains moved down the line to a smaller breed.

      • Andreas is 100% correct. Without actually seeing what is happening, it’s difficult to pinpoint what the issue is. You need the help of a professional dog trainer to evaluate the situation and give you training and guidance.

      • So much black-and-white and hard rules given here. When properly used, bite sticks can be an effective safety device. The bad reputation comes from misunderstanding and the many misuses. In situations like Deb described, I often have much more than break sticks available. That said, there was no indication that was needed in this case.

        That the dog growled on a correction may be a red flag, or it may not be at all, as a slight warning growl from a scared and confused dog. I agree they need a professional to determine, but from the facts given you simply do not know. Similarly for your diagnosis of dominance, which many professionals have stopped using as too many people have wrong interpretations, nor was there anything mentioned that comes close to dominance here.

        If saying “ouch” might excite a “good” pit bull into biting more, then you really better not ever give that dog a sharp “no” unless you can run faster than he can! As for “bites and won’t let go”, imagine a bite-and-hold with head shaking to tear the flesh and see if that matches the description here. Or might this simply be a dog asking for attention? And while “ouch” doesn’t work initially with all, it is possible to teach the dog what it means in terms of his response.

        On training the dog, while the daughter should take some responsibility, the entire family should participate or that may not work.

        Overall, they do need some guidance here, in both training and understanding. I don’t believe I have ever seen a complaint such as this one where there were not several other related issues that weren’t mentioned as they were not serious enough (as yet).

        The two main problems I often see are 1) issues are ignored until they escalate (he’s generally a very-very good dog), and 2) they follow somebody’s advice which says this-means-that and you must do THIS based on only a partial description.

    • My mom is fostering a dog that use to be feral. He’s made amazing progress and is now a part of the family, but when he wants to play, he gets mouthy (he’ll grab your hand, arm, or foot; sometimes kind of hard). We’ve always just said “Ow!” to make him let go (when he started it, we had to say it and pull away, but now he associates the word “ow” with “no I don’t want to play like that”). Usually after he lets go, we will grab a toy and give that to him to chew on. Maybe this will help your daughter and dog reestablish a good relationship.

    • Our younger boxer would do this with my son. It was because my son had taught the pup to play rowdy with him in that way. He thought it was funny when the puppy grabbed his flapping sleeve. Not so funny when that puppy becomes 80#! I had to work with both my son & dog to teach them how to play together without encouraging the chase & catch play. They both grew/learned out of it, but it needs to be nipped in the bud! Part of it was both the dog’s & my son’s maturity level. They ended up as great buddies when they knew how to respect each other’s limits.

    • Dogs are proud and sensitive about their tails and they don’t like hugs. Unless trained by the owner. Kids like to hug dogs but it is not a good idea. Squirting is not good. A dog needs alternatives and a way out. If a dog is laying in its bed don’t disturb it. My dogs treat kids as they would their puppies and they will pinch them with their front teeth to get their point across. But they don’t bite hard. Thank God. I really supervise kids so that doesn’t happen though. Kids and animals cant be unsupervised. The children will often torture the animal. Children are not as nice as the parents want to believe.

      • Im not sure where your thinking comes from about dogs not wanting to be hugged. I have had many dogs throughout my life and I have always hugged each of them. A dog loves to be hugged and shown affection. I have a 9yr old shepherd who loves to be cuddled, and I have 5 grandkids who are always putting their arms around him for a big hug, he just nestles right up to them every time.

        • Hugging can make many dogs uncomfortable, it is not a natural behavior. Submissive dogs may seem to have to problem with it, but if you have a dominant dog it can be a problem. Hugging and snuggling are two different things to animals. Snuggling is a normal pack behavior, while wrapping your arms around the neck of a standing dog is a entirely different thing.

          • Sorry read the snuggling part in someone else’s comment, but accidentally thought I read it in yours. Oops

        • Dogs innately don’t like hugs. While to humans a hug is a sign of affection, to a dog it’s a sign of dominance. Your dogs probably didn’t mind them because they were taught from a young age to accept this behaviour from humans.

          An alternative would be to teach your children (and yourself) to share affection with a dog in a way that benefits both parties.

          Google “How to prevent your child from being bitten by a dog” by Cesar Millan.

          • I certainly wouldn’t use Cesar Milan’s advice on how to avoid being bitten since he either totally misunderstands dog body language, or chooses to ignore it in order to provoke a bite response. Just google ‘Cesar Milan bitten videos’ to see what NOT to do a dog…

    • I’m only 15 as well, and am in no way a professional trainer but this puppy seems like he really just wants to play and it’s you who has to teach him to play. Teach him what is OK to play with and what is not OK (your daughter’s hand). Have your daughter walk through the room with her arms crossed and up out of reach. Don’t have her give the dog any attention when he chases her, ignore him. Give him instead something else to focus his attention on like a rope or ball. Even better, have him sit and at your attention while she walks through. Tell him “leave it” when he wants to chase her, and when he does tell him “Ahh Ahh” and walk him back over to the spot you started. Don’t have negative reactions like hitting or spraying him with water. Reward him with a teat or a toy when he makes the choice not to chase. This should help. Still see a trainer to teach him self control and give him lots of walks and exercise since both labs and pit bulls need LOTS mental and physical activity. (My 8 year old Labrador retriever still runs and acts like he’s only 2 sometimes.) These dogs are VERY intelligent. Teach him lots of tricks; keep him engaged with you and your daughter, who should train him too. This will build trust and respect both ways. Hope I could help!

    • Its clear your dog is the Alpha, or the boss. You as parents need to establish yourselves as the alphas as well as your daughter. You need to enroll your dog in obedience training. Take your dog on walks and make him walk behind you, if he tries to go ahead or drags you, jerk the leash and make him listen. Feed him after he sees the “alphas” eat, and make him do it in the down/stay position. Growling is also a sign of aggression and needs to be addressed immediately, a boot the rear usually works wonders. Trust me, it wont hurt the dog. Too many people are touchy feely with their dogs. Dogs are not people and they wont ever understand how humans work. In the pack there is a pecking order. We have to establish the pecking order with the dog at the bottom or you will see these behavior problems more often. If you look a dog in the eyes DO NOT blink or look away first as that is s sign of submission. If you don’t assume the role of alpha, your dog will.

      • ” If you look a dog in the eyes DO NOT blink or look away first as that is s sign of submission.”

        That’s also a really good way to get yourself bitten :-/ “Staring” is dog-speak for “Hey, you wanna piece o’ me?” You’re challenging him to a fight … and trust me, you WILL lose.

        Please do some research on the outdated “dominance/alpha” myth before you go offering such misguided advice that could lead to someone being injured … or worse.

        http://www.nonlineardogs.com

      • Horrific advice, extremely ill-informed owner here and I feel very sorry for your dogs for having to put up with your outdated and harmful training! Do you know anything about responding to your dog in the proper manner?! If you were to boot a fearful dog he would be absolutely RIGHT to bite you! You are asking for an unstable dog with this daft ‘pack theory’ ‘dominance’ ‘alpha’ mentalities. Please educate yourself for the sake of your own dogs.
        And of course, anyone reading thing – just ignore it and move on, though maybe if you believe with these theories take a moment to educate yourself on why they are ridiculous, dangerous, and frankly inhumane.

    • Any single dog behaviour needs to be placed into context – as the author of the article showed in text with yawn, licking etc. A play-bow (which is what I am guessing you mean by down-dog position; hind-quarters straight and front in a lying-down position?) is used in play, but it is also used in hunting situations. It is a position where the dog/canine is gathering energy in its extremities, preparing it to bounce in any direction (if it was standing erect it would first need to press down before jumping up – think of what you would do if someone asked you to jump straight up in the air – you’d first bend your knees and then push up). In the context you are describing, I would therefore interpret the bow to be the dog preparing for your next “attack” with the water or anticipating your next move. To me, this could develop into ticking time-bomb behaviour if you continue with punishment approaches – he doesn’t know what to expect from you, and might see this as a provocation which can later result in defensive action when he is big enough to do something about it. I’d switch from this type of punishment and do as others here have suggested and encourage alternative behaviours. I would definitiely seek the advice of professionals too.

    • I have a four year old labrador, and as one of the trainers in our local retriever club said: Throwing water at a lab has about the same effect as throwing water at a goose; most likely, the dog will be fine with it, or even enjoy it.

      A lab/pit mix could be a challenge: You effectively have two extremely strong, highly energetic working dogs mixed into one, and the lab is also a gundog – he needs to work!

      Whether playful og aggressive, there is only one way to control this behaviour: get the dog something sensible to do with his energy. Hunting is a great way to get the lab to use his energy, and you don’t need to go hunting for game in order to use what comes naturally to the dog in a way that works both for the dog and his familly. Tracking, for instance, engages both the mind and the body. You can as him to search for treats as a start: Just throw them out there and use the seach-command. He’ll get what “search” means pretty quick :) (Food & fun? I’m IN!)

      To move from there, you can set up a trail for him using treats, and when your dog seems ready for the next step: lay out a bloodtrail for him using frozen animal blood and a reward at the end of the trail. (or a piece of raw meat, if you don’t want to go all the way and have him track game and deliver it to you, in which case the price at the end of the trail should be either a dummy or prey that the dog retrieves and hands over) This type of work will not make your dog “bloodthirsty” or aggressive, but happy and tired.

      Do NOT engage in biting-games or use biting sticks or whatever, as that will encourage the very behaviour that you are trying to extinguish. Establish a solid “let go” command and use that instead of a water-bottle when he tries to take something in his mouth that you don’t want him to carry. Remember: Labs are retrievers – they WILL try and take peoples hands and hold on. Not aggressively, but the situation can become aggressive if not handled properly. Use a “let go” command and offer the dog a favourite toy as a substitute. (A favourite toy is a toy the dog gets as a reward only, and is then taken away thus increasing the value of the toy)

      To train a “let go”-command, simply wait until your dog picks something up (the more valuable to the dog, the better) and offer the dog a trade – for instance a treat (or a favourite toy if this is established) while using the words “let go”. Give the treat as soon as the dog lets go, and inforce with words and a pat on the head. (Good boy/girl)

      And most important: When a dog is agitated, stay calm! Running towards the dog with a waterbottle is the opposite of calm.

      Your dog is growling in frustration because he is being misunderstood and has nowhere to put his energy. Give him something sensible to do as an alternative. (He could very well be taking her hand to “retrieve”her, initially, but the situation has escalated and now – with the water and the shouting – the dog is deeply confused, which could lead to the dog becoming aggressive)

      If possible, get in contact with your local retriever club and sign up for classes. Mixedbreeds are usually welcome to train with the purebreds, so don’t worry that you only have “half” a lab – we have one who is only one quarter of a lab at our club. What matters is if your dog responds to the type of training most suited to a retriever, and from what you wrote he seems to exhibit typical lab’ behaviour :)

    • You need to act on this NOW. A relative by marriage had pit mixes who grew up with her kids. When one daughter was 18 and having breakfast at the table, one of their dogs leaped up and took off part of her face. If you daughter is scared, has expressed this, and you have not taken decisive action on it, what does that tell your daughter. Looks like the dog’s in charge. As for “basic obedience” training classes: they work for easy dogs without questionable bloodlines. We had a one-on-one trainer for our large dog when she was about 6 months old. Best money I ever spent. Our dog is submissive, but not fearful. She has spent the last several years as a certified therapy visitation dog. By the way, this trainer loved rottweilers, dobermans, shepherds, etc. but said he could never guarantee the outcome of a pit or pit mix. Even though HE could manage them at any time, dog owners do not often have that ability to walk into a room and have the dog utterly submit and adore like this guy did.

    • that’s the lab…. the dog can sense energy if the 15 year old is scared the dog will know that and act on it.
      the 15 year old has to be in charge ! if she sees the dog coming she should stop, and make the dog lie on his side, in a submissive way, until the dog completely relaxes mind and body.
      just telling the dog to let go, is not enough you have to do more, other wise the dog aint gonna learn.

    • I doubt u need a dog trainer, just a little advice, simple education, and common sense which im sure u have. the growling at the water bottle is playing, my last pit that sadly passed used to do it at a water gun and was having a blast, disregard the need to correct it. learn the dogs cues as mentioned before. thats really all it takes. so much explains how they feel up to and including the direction their tail is wagging. the moon eyes arent necessarily stress, my dog has that often in anticipation of my food…lol. u can learn enough from other peoples situations to not need a dog trainer, and if ur like me u could never afford one and would have to give the dog up. since im completely opposed to doing that i had to pay attention and learn fast. i found my pit when she was already grown, about 3 years old, and i didnt trust her alone with my kids til about a year later. shes fine alone with my 12 year old, but not my 4 year old cuz i may be paranoid or i maybe smart. shes obviously got a high tolerance level to handle my kids but they have put her thru everything without being bit. she “talks” to us when shes mad about not being walked as often as she feels she deserves and it sounds pretty wicked, but shes a lap dog at heart. but she does gets rigid when annoyed, and she does go off to herself when shes had enough, and i close the bedroom door when she does to give her a little peace, nobody is allowed to bother her then, cuz shes earned it for being an amazing addition to our family. shes never allowed to be bothered while eating, again thats common sense . shes never handled rough by the kids, its not allowed. if she gets the least bit rigid they back off, its a rule. my 4 year old isnt ever allowed to play tug of war with her and her toys, another rule, but my 12 year old is and she does grumbles but shes also wagging her tail and loving every minute of it. when she feels bad shes left alone, when her attitude seems the least bit off shes left alone. when shes good shes praised and given treats. and shes given treats by my kids too so she understands to be good to them also. it is possible that i simply have the best dog in the world and while that is my belief, its not likely to be true. we simply treat her with the respect she deserves for not just being a pet, but being a more tolerant member of our family than most of the rest of us r…lol. she now insists on sleeping with my 2 girls and they have been trained just as much as the dog on acceptable behavior and so i allow it. otherwise theyre never alone with her and there isnt a time that someone isnt watching and she has never given any trouble. ur dog has the potential to be the best dog in the world to u just as mine is to me, simply be aware that most body movements have meaning, train her as well as ur child, and praise them both on work well done. u have all the makings of a beautiful friendship…..embrace it. it will be so worth it for them.

    • sounds like the puppy needs activity. that mix is ALL about active work/play. get some fetch toys and PLAY — get out and RUN with the dog. a tired dog is a mannered dog !!
      a 15yo usually has no interest in taking care of a pet, they are more interested in their own socialization. however, a PUPPY NEEDS activity, structure, and socialization.

    • First of all I can sense immediate danger when I look at the photo you have included with the three kids…they are all too close to the dogs head.
      Most injuries from dog bites occur because the child is at the came approximate height as the dog. Children want to hug and do things that may seem fun to the child but annoying to the animal.
      You can “Monday morning quarterback” this all day long but the best prevention is supervision.

    • I have a mixed breed dog, who is also very mouthy. I’ve been able to train her, when she gets excited to go pick up a toy. That way instead of trying to mouth on people, she already has something in her mouth. It works out very well for us!

  2. Parents should also remember that just because a dog is comfortable one day with a child, they may not be comfortable the next. I’ve raised 4 children with dogs. My Mom raised 5 children while running a kennel of Irish Terriers. It can be done, common sense goes a long way in raising dogs with kids.

    • Excellent point, Rita. We often talk about dogs having “good moments” and “bad moments” which I think is the same as you are saying that a dog can be comfortable one day and not the next. Great thing to keep in mind! Thanks.

  3. Excellent article, Robin! I’ve worked with far too many children in my human child/family play therapy and psychology work who have been bitten, often in the face. Not only is it painful and disfiguring, it can cause trauma reactions for a long time to come unless it’s treated properly. This is ABSOLUTELY what parents need to know – how to read dog body language so they can prevent those problems from occurring. Nice job!!
    Risë

    • Thanks so much, Rise. I really admire the work you do and your words mean a great deal to me. Thanks for leaving this comment.

  4. Holly, I strongly encourage you to see a professional (read: certified) dog trainer. Preferably one with force-free training techniques.

    • I would add that when choosing a trainer, ask them if they are comfortable working with kids, and ask for a reference of a family with kids. I personally would focus on your daughter’s relationship with the dog and have HER do some training, so the dog learns to play other games. Right now, from what you have described, what he is doing IS A GAME to him! He needs to learn a new game, which is FUN, but also has rules and does not involve his mouth on human skin.
      ~Michelle Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC

      • Michelle, thanks for clarifying! Yes – a trainer that is comfortable/knowledgeable working with dogs and children; references always help.
        I’d also like to point out that any good trainer out there should always feel comfortable saying, ” I’m not the best fit for this situation. Let me recommend someone who is.” I’m not a dog trainer but have been blessed with knowing some excellent ones who have helped me with my dogs.

    • Unfortunately, force-free, positive, reinforcement and reward are fuzzy words and are often not effective in choosing a trainer, and certification of any type has its limits. I would focus more on following Michelle’s advice in your selection.

  5. These are great tips. I have a baby and a dog and I’m glad to now be armed with cues to look for in my dog when she and our daughter are interacting. I also think, however, that the headline and the sentiment “supervising your dog and child doesn’t work” is misleading, and counters the very argument that we should know what signs of fear, stress or aggression to look for in our dogs. By supervising their interaction, we can see if our pets are behaving in a way that could lead to growls, nips and bites, and also monitor our childrens’ behaviour and teach them to treat our pets properly. That’s the nature of supervising, no? You say it best here: “The problem is not lack of supervision. The problem is no one has taught parents what they should be watching.” The issue isn’t that supervising doesn’t work, it’s that adults who are supervising their kids and dogs aren’t doing it properly.

    • Hi Kristen, You bring up a valid point about the headline. That headline was really an attempt to catch the attention of the large number of pet professionals who read my blog. I was not implying that supervision doesn’t work, rather just trying to explain why the common advice to “supervise” doesn’t work. My point was merely to stress that rather than just saying “supervise” or “supervise more” or “supervise better,” pet professionals should consider saying how to supervise. So I think we are in agreement that everyone could use education on how the advice could be better. Thanks for your comment.

  6. What about a dog that follows children and barks at them? My dog has never bitten anyone, but when we are at the park, if there are children he will go to them and bark and bark. We will intervene and draw him away, but often he will go back. Is this a sign he might bite them? Is there something we can do other than avoid children?

    • Hi Btmom, It’s hard to say without seeing the dog, but my guess would be one of two things is happening. Either your dog loves kids and is barking to get attention or your dog is uncomfortable with the high energy level of the kids and is barking to get them to settle down. Either way, you are right to intervene and draw him away because barking in general will likely worry the other parents and kids who are at the park. You might try getting your dog to settle down by taking along something that can distract your dog while he is at the park (like treats, a toy or a bone). If you can give him those things and have him lay down and be content that might be a good option.

        • Would the breed not play a factor in this behavior? I have found that certain working breeds that have herding instincts tend to have this behavior around children. The only problem that I have run into with this behavior is the nipping that the dog display in order to “herd” the “group” into one area. I have a Standard Schnauzer that has incredible herding instinct and she has “worked” the perimeter of my unfenced yard before when my son was young and had friends over. She made sure NO child went out of our yard area…now she didn’t nip, she barked and circled until the child went back or until an adult could go back and gather the child. She also kept the kids away from lake. It was truly amazing to watch her work!

          • Hi Deb, I do think breed would play a factor. Certain breeds are more prone to barking and/or doing herding behaviors. That being said, my advice would still be the same. If you are at a dog park and your dog is barking at other kids, I would intervene and draw him away and then try to get him to settle down. How easily it will be to distract him is going to also be somewhat related to his breed instincts though.

    • Personally, I would view this as an inappropriate behavior on your dog. He may be fine around children, he may be not. But, he shouldn’t be allowed to follow them at all, or be given the opportunity to go back. If he needs his off-leash time – and lets face it, they all do – I’d take him to a secluded area. When in public, he should be on a leash. It’s much easier to prevent any accidents, then deal with the ramifications should it escalate. Dogs act in many different ways when they’re nervous, stressed, scared, angry, etc.. Without seeing this dog’s body language, I’d err on the side of caution(He isn’t by chance a herding breed, or a dog with a high prey drive is he?). And, imagine how scary it is for a child, to have a dog chase and bark at them. Putting the dog into the situation isn’t fair for the children, or the dog.
      Good luck.

  7. Many dogs are uncomfortable with a childs quick movements or a child that is running and screaming. Dogs often view children as prey when they exhibit this behavior. Also dogs view children as equals, they do not view children as they view an adult or older child. Definitely teach your child how to approach a dog they are not familiar with and to always be slow and gentle.

      • Very true, Debra. Just a few weeks ago, there was a 2 year-old boy, who was mauled to death by his grandma’s bull mastiff. This dog had originally been trained to hunt pigs and the grandma had sent the child outside around to the back of the house to get ice cream with the dog on the loose. Both children and small pigs squeal, so maybe that’s what attracted the dog.

      • Very true, Debra. Just a few weeks ago, there was a 2 year-old boy, who was mauled to death by his grandma’s bull mastiff. This dog had originally been trained to hunt pigs and the grandma had sent the child outside around to the back of the house to get ice cream with the dog on the loose. Both small children and pigs squeal, so maybe that’s what attracted the dog.

    • As was commented earlier by Robin, there are several likely reasons for the dog’s behavior, but I feel a prey reaction would be very rare, and not often as you suggest. Nor do I see any way to logically conclude they see kids as equals. While some dogs do see children differently enough to not know how to interact and behave, that is by no means a general statement. Many dogs are quickly comfortable with kids and learn proper behavior in just a few days.

  8. As a dog owner and uncle of several kids, I don’t leave kids alone with my dogs, ever. However I DO trust my dogs because I actively play with them and test the limits of their tolerance every day. I pull ears, tail, skin, lips gently at first, but definitely enough to warrant a reaction. Why? because I don’t know what a child (2 year old) will do and they have a propensity to pull with force. I want to know my dogs reaction and their tolerance because if they snap with me, I correct immediately to suppress the reaction and increase their tolerance level. Call me responsible, but it’s my duty as an owner to teach my dogs proper human/dog behavior and biting/nipping/barking is not appropriate with children; my pets know this.

    I also draw the parallel to raising kids because a child who hits/bites/screams is just an animal that was never taught any better by it’s owner (parent).

    • Sorry, but I think that ‘suppress(ing) the reaction’ could cause you trouble in the long run, and is not responsible at all. You suppress their natural reaction. So, they still don’t like what you’re doing, but they don’t TELL you that they don’t like it. What I see happening is that eventually they will get sick of putting up with what you (or the kids) dish out, and they will skip the warning and go straight to the consequence, because you’ve taught your dogs that it is wrong for them to let you know when they are uncomfortable. How about trying positive reinforcement instead?

    • Thanks for your comment, Mario. I’m glad you are actively playing with your dogs and testing the limits of their tolerance. It’s good to know whether a dog has bite inhibition or not. However, one area that isn’t always as intuitive as it seems is with suppressing a dog’s reaction. Suppression of any behavior, without changing the dog’s emotional state, often isn’t helpful for a dog (or any animal for that matter). It is possible to teach a dog that growling or snapping doesn’t work. However, if you haven’t taught the dog to be happy about whatever situation he is in, you are likely to see an increase in the aggressive display the next time the dog needs to use a signal. This is actually how you can get a dog that bites without warning, which is obviously not what anyone wants! The other minor problem with teaching dogs through the suppression of behavior is that dog’s don’t generalize very well. Many dogs will suppress their behavior with the individual who is able to punish them, but increase their signal with others (particular children). So those are some areas of concern when teaching dogs how to act. I’m glad you are helping to make your dogs good canine citizens though and I do agree that there is a lot of similarity between raising kids and raising dogs. Thanks!

    • While fully agreeing with Mellissa and Robin here, I’ll just further emphasize that there are positive ways of dealing with this issue. My dog is conditioned to deal with young children to where he knows what to expect and how to deal with an awkward situation in a good manner rather than trying to simply tolerate it.

      I have seen too many cases of suppression that eventually reached their limit.

      • I’m no dog expert, but I raised 4 kids with a dog. My point of view was that it was my job to protect the dog from the kids. My dog knew if she yelped, I’d come save her (if I wasn’t right there). I would also give the dog rewards when she allowed handling of her ears, feet, mouth, etc. I tried to make those kinds of touching equal affection for her. I’d say “goooood dog” while handling her ears, for example. No child was allowed to touch the dog if they couldn’t be gentle. I never punished the dog for making warning sounds (which I immediately attended to). Luckily, I have never had to deal with my dog biting anyone or my kids being bitten. The latter might be at least partially because I taught them to understand that moving away, growling, whining, etc. were signs they needed to leave the dog *alone*. I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes, though. I was never very good at house training.

    • But you’re not increasing the dog’s tolerance level – things that hurt the dog will still hurt. What you’re doing is suppressing the warning system so that instead of saying early on “Hey that hurts, can you please cut it out?” the dog is going to wait until they can’t take it any more and then bite “without warning.” Growling or snapping when someone is yanking their ears *is* an appropriate response. The child being rough with the dog is what’s inappropriate.

      Re your parallel – so if you walk up to a child and give their hair a good yank and they say “Hey mister, that hurts! Please don’t do that again!” is that an inappropriate response?

  9. I would suggest (force-free) training your dog and children to play a structured, safe game. If the dog understands her job and the children understand the safe rules of the game, then it is a win-win situation.
    I have trained my young Border Collie to play “Ready, Steady, Go versus Ready, Steady, No” with a toy. Children marvel at the way she can distinguish between the “G” and the “N” (the “No” is said gently and “Go” is said in the same tone). Depending on the age of the child my dog retrieves to them or to me to reset for the game. I use a large, Holee Roller so the children don’t have to worry about getting their hands too near to the mouth (although she is trained to give nicely and not snatch a toy back).
    I also give “Be A Tree” presentations to local Primary Schools (without my dogs, but with video footage) to help get the dog body language awareness out there.

  10. Excellent advice, Robin! As a photographer, I can not tell you how many times I have CRINGED over people’s ideas for portraits with their pets and young kid’s face (TOO close to the dog)….needless to mention the “riding the dog” holiday pix!!!

    • Oh Tina…I love any photographer that can actually see the stress in dogs during those photo shoots. I’m so happy to hear some photographers are cringing over those photos! Hopefully you can help make things different, although I’m sure it’s hard to get through to parents who want that perfect pet photo op! Thanks for the comment.

  11. Its not just about training the dog its about training the kids aswell I have 2 very boistrouse boys under 6 years and an 11 year old staffordshire bull terrier girl my boys have pestered my dog but they have been told its not acceptable and they have also been told if they do that and she doesn’t like it and bites them its gunna hurt A LOT and yes I’ve gone into some detail of what a dog is capable of, she will play with them but when she has had enough she goes off to her bed and the boys know not to follow this article is great and does highlight what parents should be looking out for

  12. Most dogs go through a whole repertoire of warning signs before they bite, and then when they bite, they bite once and back way, giving the bitten person or animal the opportunity to retreat. This normal dog behavior has been bred out of pit bulls, since the dog who hesitates to give warning signals at the scratch line in a dogfight will quickly be killed by the other dog, and will not live to pass along his genes. Regardless of all other differences between pit bulls & other dogs, this trait of instant reactivity would make pit bulls harder to read and therefore more dangerous, even if not compounded in many instances by inappropriate training. The reactivity factor shows in the numbers: of the 4,334 dogs involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks on humans occurring in the U.S. & Canada since September 1982, when I began logging the data, 2,733 (63%) were pit bulls; 535 were Rottweilers; 3,509 were of related molosser breeds, including pit bulls, Rottweilers, mastiffs, boxers, and their mixes. The other molosser breeds have approximately the same physical armament as a pit bull, but not the same instant reactivity in most cases. Of the 513 human fatalities, 260 were killed by pit bulls; 84 were killed by Rottweilers; 383 (75%) were killed by all molosser breeds combined. Of the 2,527 people who were disfigured, 1,627 (66%) were disfigured by pit bulls; 313 were disfigured by Rottweilers; 2,039 (83%) were disfigured by molosser breeds. Pit bulls–exclusive of their use in dogfighting–also inflict about 10 times as many fatal and disfiguring injuries on other pets and livestock as on humans, a pattern unique to the pit bull class. Reactivity may be a factor in this, as well. Surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption indicate that pit bulls and pit mixes are less than 6% of the U.S. dog population; molosser breeds, all combined, are 9%.

    • I have a molosser breed dog, a Boxer. I could not ask for better family companions or more careful and loving dogs for children. I appreciate the point about reactivity, and will keep that in mind when I learn more about other dog breeds.

    • While I appreciate the stats on the large breeds, one thing most tend to ignore, are the small breeds. To me, a dog bite is a dog bite. Whether it is 2 stitches or 22 stitches, a bite can traumatize a child. I have a lot of respect for owners and parents who try to teach and train to these situations, but get so angry when a small breed owner tells me that their dog i s to cute or small to be disciplined. If your dog can not be around others safely, don’t have them around others. Leave them where they are safe and secure.

      • I have to disagree… it’s hard get excited about our Maltese biting, he doesn’t like anyone except my husband, he doesn’t break the skin when he bites, and he just has little dog syndrome.

        If you ignore him he quits.

    • Oh, statistics are such fun. I’ve seen similar statistics that, with some more data added, did not support that conclusion. Yes, I’ve worked with some fight trained pits who had that immediate reactivity (with dogs), from both breeding and training. However, their human bite inhibition was extremely high. Those with human aggression are not bred or allowed to live as they are too dangerous to their handlers. So, that by itself could not support your conclusion.

      I work with new pits each week and rarely do I see that immediately reactivity, and no more with pits than other breeds. They give the same warning signs as others.

      The larger issue is that many (though not all) will tend to bite-and-hold so that incidents may be harder to deal with.

      • As an ED nurse, I’ve seen my share of dogbites. No stats, but most of bites were from small dogs and often on the face, hands or feet as a child tried to pick it up, kiss it, or kick it. I have read articles that report children are at eye level with large breeds and therefore more likely to “look them in the eye” and be perceived as a threat. I have had Rottweilers, a lab/retriever, and a lab mix from the pound. We have an open crate that they can retreat to and our children taught how to spot stress in the dogs, how to appropriately play, and “to not push their buttons”. We have never had a problem but we have always been very careful to ACTIVELY supervise interactions until the kids were old enough to be trusted (9-10) as dogs who bite are euthanized in our area. Why risk a death sentence for your pet?

  13. Well, “supervising” actually does require supervision. It isn’t just a matter of not leaving a child alone with a dog. Just being there ain’t gonna do it. You have to supervise.

    It also helps if you train the dog to tolerate a lot – away from the child and

    train the child in appropriate behaviors, also away from the dog.

    Then SUPERVISE and enforce those behaviors when they are together.

    • Hi Kaylor, I absolutely agree you have to supervise. I was just making the point that if you don’t help people understand what they are supposed to be seeing, then supervision won’t work. I guess it would be like telling me to “supervise” the big IV stand in a hospital. I could watch and watch and watch, but without knowing what all the tubes, bells and drips are supposed to be doing, my supervision would be worthless. So yes, I totally agree with you that you need to supervise and I’m hoping that more pet professionals will train people on the signs. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Thank you so much. I am a mother of two children and have raised one puppy, fostered three and adopted one dog. Dogs saved me several times when I was a child from some pretty nasty physical violence, and I am grateful for their comfort and wisdom. I want my children to know those gifts also, so I read everything I can get my hands on about the topic. There isn’t enough. I am so glad to read your article. You made some new and helpful points about what to watch for. I would like to add some other notes

    I train my dogs to know that everything in the house is mine or the children’s. The dogs must know ‘sit’ and ‘leave it.’ The children must also understand ‘no’ and ‘be gentle.’ Two extremely important commands that will help very much. I teach my dogs to respect my space. I respect theirs. When they are ill or tired I care for them, give them quiet warm places to sit if that means I sit on the floor, so what. I train my children to respect the dog and to look for the dog’s signal. If a dog backs away from a child, we do not go after it to pet it. The dog gets the final say in whether we pet it or not. So many times I say no, we won’t pet this dog when the owner is trying to force the dog forward to be petted. Idiot! I understand they want to share the glory of their best friend, but they aren’t listening carefully to their friend’s wishes.

    I also was very careful around the time my dogs became 2 years old, mature and sassy. They tested limits more then and were finding a place to fit. I was more hard line then about consciously taking a bite of my treat before sharing, or always walking through a door first. The other sensitive time was when the children grew enough to look the dog straight in the eye when the child is standing. I wanted to make sure the dog was not threatened by this, and made sure my children knew not to try to stare the dog down. There was no reason to threaten a friend.

    I also handled my dog from a pup to make it an enjoyable, loving experience for her, sharing treats and rubbing good spots as well as between toes and ears. I grew to learn what was normal reaction and her pain reaction so I could assess injuries better, and I was able to massage some of her pain away when she got older and had arthritis. I think gentle touching in a loving way is always helpful for both dog and person.

    My children are 11 and 6 years old now and love our dogs. I am still learning so much, and I hope people continue to write more about this topic and do research. Tufts University is doing groundbreaking research on Child development and how dog’s affect children. I don’t know why it has taken so long for the academic world to open up this area of inquiry, but I am so happy to see it begun.

    • Hi Amy, Thanks for your comments. I love that you teach “no” and “be gentle” to your kids and that you are observant to listen to the dog even when owners sometimes say it’s ok to pet them. Those are all so important to know and observe. Great job!

  15. Good article although I don’t think the title is appropriate. Many kids do get bitten when no one is supervising because they will do things to the dog that won’t do when people around or parents intervene (like climbing on the dog). Also the number of times that dog is relinquished because “something happened” when no one was looking is astounding! The title suggests that you don’t need to supervise children but you do. This article should be called “How to supervise your children around dogs”.

    • Hi Karen, Thanks for your insight. Sorry if the title seemed confusion. I was actually directing that title to many pet professionals whose main advice is “Supervise.” This advice won’t work unless you go one step further to explain what the parents should be watching for. I do agree you need supervision, along with education about what that means. Hope that helps explain things a bit. Thanks for your comment.

  16. I often see children play with our dogs by lying on the floor, rolling around and allowing the dog to crawl on top of them or by enticing the dog to chase them, as if the child was another dog. This has always made me uncomfortable. I feel that when dogs play “fight”, its an even fight and they both understand the rules of the game so to speak, but children are not dogs and don’t give or receive the same cues to signal when enough is enough. Some parents think its cute and are offended when I stop their children from playing with our dogs in that manner. Am I justified in my concern or am I being overly concerned?

    • Hi J, I think you are completely justified. This isn’t what I would consider appropriate play with a dog…particularly a dog that isn’t a member of that child’s family. If this were any kind of game I wanted to play, there would be rules of the game, but they would not include dogs jumping or crawling on the kids or vice versa. I have played chase with dogs but only as a form of “freeze tag” in which kids and dog can run around but when “Freeze” is called, the child freezes and the dog sits (normally for a treat). This can be a good impulse control game, but it requires adults to help initially and the dog needs to learn a sit. You are doing the right thing by being your dog’s advocate in your situations and hopefully the parents will understand.

  17. If you can’t trust your dog around your kid you should make a hard choice, get rid of the dog. You can’t be everywhere all the time.

    • I don’t think that’s necessarily true. You can have a well behaved dog that never showed any signs of aggression but if it’s not feeling well, or something else is going on on a certain day, that dog could bite. Kids can’t read dog body language, that’s not their fault and that’s not the dogs fault. Kids and dogs should never be left alone with dogs, period. As said in the article, if something were to happen it would automatically be the dogs fault and then the dog is punished. If you’re not there supervising, you don’t know if the child provoked the dog.

    • That’s like saying “my PC has a virus, I’m switching to Mac”, or “My 3 year old is biting, I should sell her”, or “Someone, somewhere in the world will get shot today, my son is going to permanently wear a bullet proof vest.”

      You’re right that we can’t be everywhere all the time. However, the napalm approach doesn’t work. We have to learn to mitigate the negatives in all aspects of life, and this article does a great job doing that for this particular topic.

  18. Thanks to all those who have asked for permission to share this post. I would love to get this information to more people. So for how you can do that, you can visit this page:http://www.robinkbennett.com/permissions-policy/

    Basically, I just ask that you either link back to the post or if you print a copy for your company newsletter, I ask that you simply include a copyright line. You can see the information at the link above.
    Thanks so much.

    • Robin, I have had dogs all my life and recently bought a small independent pet supply store in my hometown. Many customers bring their dogs or kids when come in, and it is obvious to me that dogs are easy to train, but it’s much harder to train the people. You and many of the comments here are right, it’s all about learning the correct body language. A perfect example of this is that I usually bring my 7-month old puppy, and when people enter the store they will lean their upper body forward and put their hands out with palms facing up, which is a sign to the dog that they should jump up, so I always give a quick piece of advice that they should stay upright and turn their palms facing down, as this is the “down” command.

      I’d like to pass your article on to our customers, would it be ok for me to just write the URL on the back of my business card and hand them out? Please let me know. Thanks for sharing.

      • Hi Tony, I often say dogs are easier to train than people. HAHA But it’s fun to help everyone learn and it sounds like you are doing a great job with that. I think people do want to learn about these things is there is a safe environment to teach them. I would be happy to have you give out the URL to the article or my blog so that folks could read it. Thanks for doing that.

  19. Also not letting young kids be around dogs when both the dog and the kid are hyperactive. My family owns a beagle, and whenever he’s a bit hyper and my younger brother is too, the beagle tends to be much more likely to begin showing signs of aggressive behavior towards my brother.

    • THANK YOU for making this point. I have seen time and time again when a hyper dog and a hyper child are combined, no matter how vigilant the supervisor, no matter how “trained” the child and dog are, there are accidents. This is, by the way, an excellent time to put them both in a back yard and play a game where each runs around, but doesn’t touch the other. We had a dog that LOVED “Red light, Green light”.

      • Good point…games are great ways to have controlled chaos! I have used the freeze tag game which I think must be very similar to your red light, green light. Great options for kids to keep the hyper stuff at a manageable level!

  20. And the parents are NOT teaching their child to respect the dog – even a toddler should be able to understand some simple things like do not pull the doggy’s ear. However especially when children get to be 5 or older – when the doggy growls then you need to leave him/her alone. And compare it to when the child is grumpy – do they like to be bothered – they should be able to understand this.

    This subject really is a “pet-peeve” (pardon the pun) of mine because so many dogs end up either being euthanized or dumped or turned in to a shelter because of this. To many people/parents/families are getting pets who really have no business doing so because they are not willing to put in the time at being a responsible pet owner.
    Mom Kim
    Shiloh’n Diva Shasta

  21. My dad used to be a trainer and I have heard him say to people, “Look, it’s the kid that annoys the dog,” which to me, is just another way of saying that it’s mostly we humans that upset the dog. I agree with him, because if you look at the situation as a whole, you’ve mostly got the owner, the dog, the child and the parents, so the dog really only accounts for a quarter to a third of the situation. It’s often people, even if it is unintentional, so often the person may not understand. A dog attack on a child may look unprovoked, but the dog may have been teased in the past by a child, so that memory is what would have provoked it, so not specifically the dog. I took dog obedience classes 10 years ago now, where it’s more about teaching people how to deal with dogs safely, rather than just focusing on the dog. Since taking these classes, I have never had a problem. My tips of advice would be:
    . Both parents and children MUST participate in dog obedience classes if they want the dog to listen to them. This is known to be better than just hiring a dog trainer, because if you just hire a trainer, the dog might only listen to the trainer and not their owner. I have heard of that happening. It’s also better for socializing the dog, instead of the owners just relying on reading materials, because it may be cheaper. The better socialized they are, the better their behaviour. One of my own dogs had these issues because of the way her previous owners had treated her.
    . Never pat a dog directly on the head first. This can intimidate them as it can also intimidate we humans. I read recently that the two safest places to pat a dog are around the jaw and their side. This way, it’s easier for them to see what’s going on.
    . Make sure the whole family knows to first hold out their hand in a loose fist for the dog to sniff first, even if it’s your own dog. This is how they decide if they feel comfortable with you.
    . Teach your kids if they see a dog snap at them, DON’T snap back. This is only teaching both the dog and child bad behaviour which can provoke an attack.
    . If you are standing up, NEVER bend directly down to pat a dog. The dog might just automatically jump up and snap at your face. I’ve seen it happen.
    . If a tries to lunge at you, try to always have something that you can put between you and the dog, like a jacket or a book or a chair.
    . If you see a dog attacking a child or any other person, try to have something you can throw at the dog, like a shoe. I’ve known that to work. Preferably something that smells, like a well worn jacket or a shoe. DON’T try and grab hold of the dog directly, otherwise it could just as easily attack you, although I understand that sometimes that may be the only option, but be aware of the risks.
    I’ve had parents say to me, “You just never know with dogs,” which is partly true. Then they tell me that they actually don’t know how to read a dog’s body language. I’ve seen how parents say to their children, “You must never pat a dog you don’t know,” which I can understand and is partly true due to some dog’s history, but I read recently that in around 70% of these cases happen with dogs that are actually KNOWN to the child. I would say to stick to these rules if you want to keep your whole family together.

  22. Great article. I frequently take my senior dog to play at dog park. It astounds me how often parents show up with both their dog and their kids and have great difficulty managing the kids’ interactions with other dogs in attendance, often because they seem to think all dog park dogs should show exemplary behavior no matter what message the dog is trying to convey. I have had to tell many children not to attempt to ride my dog or that poking him in the eyes or pulling his lips is not nice, and then the parent looks at me as if I have a “problem” dog! Having been bitten myself a few mos ago, I realized, after the fact, I may have missed some body language and appreciate learning more at every opportunity. Thanks!

  23. Even after 10 plus years working with dogs it still amazes me the number of parents who will not discipline their children when it comes to dogs. It’s not cute when little Johnny chases the Chihuahua all over the living room. I wish I could get parents to understand that not all dogs are good family pets. Some dogs do not do well with small children period. It is not any fault of the dog it is just the breed. Some parents shouldn’t have dogs or children Lol

  24. Eloquantly written and informative article!
    What does it mean when a dog is growling but is wagging his tail at the same time and not snarling? Sometimes our Jack Russell does this when we play tug of war.

    • Hi Rhianna, Thanks for your kind words. A tail wag can mean many things usually related to how excited a dog is. Many think it is only associated with friendliness but dogs will also wag their tail when they are agitated, nervous, or excited. The difference between wags is how fast or slow the wag and how high or low the tail is held. More than likely with your dog, the tail wag while playing tug of war is an excited wag. Some dogs will even play growl while doing this. Hope that helps.

  25. Excellent information and well written! Thank you. I would add that every child should know what to do if they feel scared or threatened in any way by a dog. The Doggone Safe “Be A Tree” method is really easy to teach every child and can be a life saver. I learned early in life that the best strategy is to “be prepared” and to “expect the unexpected” so if you follow that philosophy teaching kids some canine body language as well as the Be A Tree program could well save them from being hurt. By the way, this works for adults too!

    • Thanks Patricia! The Doggone Safe “Be A Tree” method is excellent! Everyone should know that stuff! It’s simple and easy to learn (and teach to children). Thanks for suggesting it. For those who are interested, you can learn about it here
      http://www.doggonesafe.com

  26. Great article! My 2 cents as a trainer is not to yell (or scold) a dog for growing when someone is making him uncomfortable. move that person away to make him feel less threatened. “You wouldn’t scold your child if she walked into a room full of strangers and got shy, why would you reprimand your dog for feeling nervous?” (Not to be confused with a dog growling & charging).

  27. Interesting read. When I was pregnant with my first child, Sara I used a book called Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It was really helpful and came with a CD of sounds. It had all the information about body language that you talk about – thank you for reposting it as it was VERY helpful. It also gave me advice on what changes will occur and how to prepare my Max for them. It also talked about the causes for aggression and why it might occur and how to avoid it. It is written by a vet behaviorist too so it cover health issues as well. Maybe that will help someone else!

    • Thanks for this book suggestions, G. I have not seen that book before so I will check it out. I love that it comes with a CD of sounds too. Great idea. Thanks for sharing it.

  28. I own border collies and can tell you that just about every time we encounter children (and we live near LOTS), I have to tell them how to approach.
    A calm, quiet and controlled approach will keep a herding dog relaxed. A child (or several EEK) that is flapping arms, running, squealing gives the dog alarm and the sense he needs to control and settle these little creatures down.
    I’ve also tried to teach the local kids to kneel down and pat the dog from under the head, on the neck, and not reaching over their head.
    The kids around here are great, and my dogs and I enjoy our interactions, but it took a while and I am always watchful.
    Thanks for printing this article!

    • Thanks, Tammy. It’s great that you are helping to teach others these valuable lessons. Kids need lots of reminders and it’s always good to hear it from people other than just the parents.

    • I live in an area with lots of neighborhood children too, but since I have a pitbull it’s amazing how quickly a parent will stop an excited, running child from coming near my dog with a “don’t go near that dog!” shriek :) Even though my dog is wiggling all over with bright eyes and a wagging tail. But yes, I know what you mean about having to tell unattended excited children running toward us how to safely approach a dog they don’t know. I’ve thought about how grade school’s should have “dog safety” assemblies to teach kids these things because so many parents don’t even know this safety rule. I also work with horses and people do the same thing when you’re out riding in a park. Not a fun thing when you’re sitting on top of a horse and a pack of children come running at you squealing! Eeek.

  29. Yes, I do have some advice. Put the dog outside. Seriously. Who has time to read dog body language when you have children? All possible hazards should be removed, including Fido.

    • Yes, I had a Border Collie too. She would snap if provoked, so sometimes I would have to say to people, “Please don’t do that to my dog.”

  30. I am just curious as to the number of small dogs that are actually able to kill/severely disfigure a human or live stock etc. could the inability to do this as extensively be an indication as to why larger and stronger breeds such as the pit and rottie have higher statistics for such incidences? The stats you read and use need to be put into perspective and the larger picture needs to be acknowledged. To not do this is condemning whole breeds which does not necessarily represent the nature of every dog and sadly can lead to BSL. In addition to the importance of obedience training dogs (and children!) you need to choose the correct type of training for the individual dog. Choosing clicker training for one dog may not be appropriate for the next. Just like all people learn things differently ie some are visual learners and some are practical learners etc. If you look at the way a pack works you notice the difference in the way dogs behave dependant on their status but also on their personality. Some dogs are naturally submissive and others dominant. Training a submissive dog with coercive methods is not appropriate and most likely not going to be effective thus the need to correctly determine the right training technique. A great and valid point was highlighted in this article tho!

  31. As I said on her earlier, my father used to be a dog trainer and I have heard him say to people, “Look, it’s the kid that annoys the dog.” I said this to someone the other day, and their reply was, “I’m sorry, but your father’s wrong. A dog can attack for many reasons.” Yes, I thought. Many reasons. People being one of the main ones even if it is unintentional. So, in a way, both he and I are right.
    We teach our children not to touch other people’s things without asking first, so why wouldn’t we teach them the same thing when it comes to dogs?

  32. Excellent article and so very true. The #1 sign that my dog is uncomfortable and may bite is when he snarls or shows his teeth. He does NOT growl when he does this. Please remove yourself and your children from close proximity to any dog who bares his teeth.

    • Hi Randy, Thanks for your interest in sharing this. I don’t have any problem with you printing this and providing it to adopters. I would only ask that you keep the content intact as written and include this copyright notice: “© 2013, Robin K. Bennett. All rights reserved. Originally published at http://www.RobinKBennett.com.” Thanks for sharing the information and helping others.

  33. Tail coming up or stiffening without any wagging. Dog trying hard to avoid eye contact (almost like wincing in people). Stress panting. Standing hyper erect.

    With little dogs…lots of jumping up with very erect tail.

    Something I call “hairy eyeball” which is a combo of alertness with ears starting to move back and body tension, eyes going from wide to slit.

    • These are great descriptions, Deb. I love the “hairy eyeball”…something many owners call “the look.” As in, leave the dog alone when he get’s “the look.” You described it well. Thanks.

  34. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this article! As a licensed presenter for Family Paws, stressing how to read a dog’s body language is crucial in many environments. We also teach parents that there are many types of “supervision” and that “Oopservision” (my word) is unfortunately the most common. ACTIVE, ALERT, AWARE – this can be difficult, but is what will prevent a horrible situation from occurring.
    Too often I hear someone say “He bit without any warning”… there is almost always a warning. Sadly too many people scold a dog for growling – my response it “let him growl”, you would much rather a dog “tell” you he’s uncomfortable than “show” you.
    Thanks Robin for this great article!

    • Thanks, Kym. I love “oopservision” that is great! And “Active, Alert, Aware” is a great phrase too. Thanks for your kind words and for your work presenting Family Paws. Love to hear from those who are helping to educate others!

  35. well not only watch your kids and dogs also teach your dog and also your children as no child is to Jung to learn even if you have to say it 100 or even 1000 times as it is the same how your learn your children other things also need to be sometimes said 100 or even 1000 times before they learn

    get your dog to know what his behavior is in any situation ,even now our 2 Beninese mountain ( 10 years ) dogs and the older kids ( friends ) i tell them before hand what they can do or just leave them alone.make sure also that your child is never smaller than the dog like going down on there knees.
    as we have 4 dogs all different temperament small and big from 8 month till 10 years ,and i always teach my daughter from she was old enough to understand what she could do or not and even than i never left them alone ,the dogs can greet her but she got her toys to play with not the dog as it is not a toy and Jung kids always think dogs are toys they don’t see it different.

    teach your dog his place what his place is in the family they are pets not humans and i think most people as they love there pets so much sometimes forget that.

    i know it is different in any house hold but it all comes to the owner i always say if kids don’t get teach in life they end up the wrong way but that is the same with dogs if they don’t get teach from start as Jung they are they end up the wrong way .

    at the end it is all up to the parents and the owner of the dogs i don’t say i know it all but i really believe this is the case in most of the time

  36. “The problem is no one has taught parents what they should be watching.”

    Oh, how true this is. My dream is to be able to put a copy of Stanley Coren’s ‘How to speak dog’ in every owner’s hand whether or not they have kids. AND make them read, learn, and inwardly digest. It would save dogdom so much trouble.

  37. I have had my rescued racing greyhound for almost 2 years. He will be 6 in December. He is not friendly with other dogs. He tolerates children and I am ALWAYS right there close to his head reassuring him that it’s o.k. My question is this. He comes to me for love and attention but in almost every instance, he turns his head away from me and yawns. The only time he has snapped at me is when he was sleeping and I woke him up suddenly once. I reprimanded him for this and I probably shouldn’t have. And when we are sitting together and I am stroking his head, 9 times out of 10, he will lick his lips.
    So do I have a dangerous dog and just don’t know it???? He loves to sit with me and follows me everywhere I go in the house. No matter what room I am in, he will be there with me. I have read that greyhounds are not your typical breed and I’m wondering if your advise would always apply to them.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Carol, These are great questions and I often find that when people start looking for stress signals they suddenly see stress everywhere! I don’t think you have a dangerous dog. I think you probably have a dog that is more sensitive and generally speaking lives in a higher state of stress than other dogs. What you have just describe in your comment sounds like his baseline behavior (I’m assuming he is relaxed when with you and not stiff). I would now watch for when that baseline gets stronger. You may see him lick or yawn more when children are around or when a stranger is petting him. Every dog is going to have a different starting point. My german shepherd was always more nervous than my current lab. She would show stress even when she was as relaxed as she could be in our home. So her baseline was just completely different than my lab. I do think there are some breed tendencies but I think this is really more about the different temperaments of each dog. hope that makes sense. Great question though!

  38. I would also add that you can and should teach your children to watch for these signs as well. I have a 6 year old and we have been fostering greyhounds for 2 years now. I have been actively teaching her how to be around dogs from the time she could follow simple instructions. Not only do I watch, but I have taught my daughter to watch. I point out the different body language the dog shows and explain to her what the dog might be feeling, and how she should treat the dog. Some of this in your article I did not know, or only knew instinctively and couldn’t have put into words. I am glad to know more specifically what we should watch for! Thank you!

    • Excellent point, Cheryl! I do think kids can learn this stuff and they will be safer with every dog and can probably even help teach their friends. That would be awesome!

  39. This is good advice. What I don’t understand is not being able to leave a child (not a baby or toddler), alone with your dog. I have had 17 dogs and was never bit once growing up. My son is 6 and has been left with my dog since she reached adult hood. In public surroundings I am a bit more cautious due to unforeseen variables ( ie other dogs or strange men etc..) but in my yard and my house, my dog is given all freedom with my cats and child. I know i am also more educated than most on dogs, for my experience and I do train dogs. I understand that there are people who do not train properly and have incidents of biting, however this in not the case everytime. I believe you can leave a dog alone with a child, if you really know dogs and have trained yours properly. I can go to the park, with my dog off leash, with 20 kids around and the worst thing she will do is bump into them or hit the kids with her tail. I have also had my dog since she was 8 weeks and spent a majority of my time in her first year training and spending time with her, socializing her and taking her to most places I go. I am not fully disagreeing with the advice just with the assertion that there are not exceptions to this rule.

      • I think that it really depends on the development of the child. They may have a behavioural condition like ADD or ADHD or Autism, neither of which is the child’s nor the parent’s fault. I know this because I have a background in Autism. Both my brother have Autism, but at different ends of the spectrum. He was diagnosed at 18 months and I was diagnosed at 9 years.

    • Hi Jodi, You bring up a very valid point. The advice often given is never leave them alone. I have personally found that is not reality. In reality it is virtually impossible for a parent to always, 100% of the time supervise any interaction with a dog and a child together. It’s great advice but not always possible to do. So you have to make judgements about some of this. As Meghan said I think much depends on the development of the child as well as the temperament of the dog. I have had several dogs with my kids and I had different comfort levels with them alone with my kids based on the age of my kids and the different ages of the dogs at any given time.

      • Yes, thank you Robin. Also, I think if you look at a dog attack situation as a whole, you’ve got the person/child it harms, the dog, the owner and the parent/child minder. The dog really only accounts for a quarter to a third of the situation. We need to remember that we as humans may trigger this sort of thing unintentionally, so we shouldn’t always blame the dog. If it were a small child, I wouldn’t blame them or the dog, because neither of which I wouldn’t expect to understand each other.

  40. Love your article. I also advise parents to ‘give the dog a real break’. some time with the kids (supervised…), then physically remove the dog to a place where s/he can relax and not have to ‘deal’ or remove himself or stop the play (by whatever means he has at his disposal).

    • Great information, Carey. So often parents feel back if they put the dog someplace away from the family because they feel it’s unfair to the dog. I find that very often the dog is thankful for a break and I think gets into a crate or another room and thinks, “Whew…thank goodness I have some down time.” LOL Dogs need breaks just like people do.

  41. Thank you so much for this article. I have an 8 month old daughter who is fascinated with our 12 year old Chihuahua mix, and he frets (now that I know the signs) whenever she heads towards him. I am so glad I have this information now–the last thing I would want is for there to be an incident where either one ends up hurt or scared.

  42. When raising my children, I taught them to love dogs and treat them kindly. I learned I had forgotten one important lesson when taking my son into the library for a reading program. A dog was waiting outside the door for it’s owner; my son raced to greet and pet it. It bared it’s teeth and I raced to reach my son before he tried to pet the dog. The dog was telling him “I want to be left alone” and I had failed to teach him how to tell when a dog was telling you it doesn’t want to be petted. Luckily, I got there in time. I stood back from the dog with him and calmly told him what the dog was doing and what it was trying to tell him. Then we went into the library.

    More recently, I was in a pet store with my first great pyrenees, who was an adult at the time of this incident. A young couple approached and asked if their child could pet my dog. Sabrina was very friendly so I said yes. I crouched down as they brought the child over to Sabrina, and quickly noticed the child was fearful and they were forcing the issue. I also could tell that this made Sabrina nervous. I immediately told the parents this was not a good idea since the child was afraid. They tried to insist that they believed this would get their child over her fear of dogs. I stood my ground and informed them that, while they were willing to try to get the child to pet the dog, I was now unwilling. I also told them the child’s fear was making my dog nervous.

    People need to NOT force their children to attempt to pet any dog out in public when it’s obvious that the child is fearful. This WILL NOT get the child over their fear, and it may well trigger the dog lunging at or nipping at the child to back it off.

    • Great story and tips, Nedra. I love to hear when people are being their dog’s advocate as you have done with your dog. Good job. It can be hard to do sometimes because people feel social pressure to do the opposite. So kudos to you!

  43. When people hear “supervise” in conjunction with dogs and children, they think of watching the children to make sure they don’t do anything obviously antagonistic to the dog. You make the very good point that what is really needed is to watch the dog for signs of discomfort. You don’t “supervise” your dog around children. You watch your dog around children (and lots of other places) to ensure that the dog is not becoming stressed.

    • Great point, Lynn. I do think parents assume supervision means watch for antagonistic stuff. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms but that is really what parents are trying to do. We just need to help give them other things to look for when the dog and kid are together. Thanks

  44. I think these are great tips and that more people should listen to this article. To know the bred you chose to bring into your home. Do you research see what breed fits your lifestyle not ” what looks cute” or ” oh I heard these were great family dogs” because that is not always the case.

  45. WONDERFUL article. i shared on FB and passed it on to my doggie groups as well. Sent it to people i know who have dogs and kids. When i read this i realized i knew all this, but that most of the people i know may not. And many of them have kids, so KUDOS and MANY THANKS to you for writing this in a way that regular pet owners can completely understand. :O))

    • Thanks for your kind words, Roberta. I really appreciate you sharing the information and helping to educate others.

  46. I love this advice as a first time dog owner all the information I can get is helpful. One thing that I was told when I got my Golden was to socialize her with as many kids as I could as well as other dogs. This has proven to be very helpful advice as I am a Children’s Pastor and have families over to my house on a regular basis. Thank you.

    • Hi Jonny, I love that you can use your dog for ministry! I am very active in my church and helped my Senior Pastor find a golden and we socialized him heavily in our Children’s ministry. LOL That was lots of fun!

  47. How about, to reinforce all of the above points, each time you note these cues from your dog you point them out to your child or any child within reach of your dog, and explain it to them (in a manner appropriate to their age) so that they learn how to read a dog’s behavior and don’t always need to rely on Mom and Dad to translate a language they are perfectly capable of learning.

  48. Except for the unacceptable sexist language (“mom does household chores,” all dogs are “him”), this is a smart article.

    • Hi Jerome, Sorry for the sexist language. The mom part is because most of the dog bite situations have been while mom is home and dad is at work. So I guess that came across more sexist than I had intended. I’ll pay attention to that in the future. And I always struggle with the pronoun when talking about dogs. I can’t quite seem to call the dog an “it” but constantly using he/she gets cumbersome to read. So I normally just pick a pronoun (either he or she) and stick with it throughout. I haven’t quite figured a way around this. I appreciate the feedback though. Thanks.

  49. I dont think the dog is the issue. I think people need to teach the children how to treat animals. I have four children from toddlers through 7 and I have never had a issue with hitting, climbing on or yelling at our dogs by my children. The were taught from a day one easy petting and never touch a sleeping,or an animal while eating. I so often see little brats hitting dogs, pulling on there tails, climbing on them and worse. Then in turn the dog will growl and the owners fuss at the dog. Here a thought I dont care if your kid in 1 or 18 punish your child. No animal deserve to be mistreated no wonder people kids are bit.

  50. “Santa” gave my girls a pitbull for Christmas one year without consulting me. I love this breed, really, it’s my favorite. My sister had multiple pitbulls in her household and my girls had been asking for a big dog for years, hopefully a pitbull. They loved the clownish, endless energy these dogs displayed.
    I am of the mind that you NEVER EVER leave a small child (under 10 or 12) alone with ANY dog. Especially if the dog is also young (under 5).
    I am also one of those parents who was standing there watching said pitbull and 9 years old daughter play in the sprinkler at my fathers house. Just as I started to say, “watch the teeth” to my daughter, it happened. This was not a bite..per se. This was the dog biting the spray and the daughter jumping through the water.
    The canine tooth “nicked” her knee. The dog was about 16 months old and still had those razor sharp young dog teeth.
    It required stitches, only about 4, but stitches none the less, and a report to animal control of course.
    This was not a matter of the dog being disobedient or the child being disrespectful. It was not even a matter of inattention by me..it was an accident.
    I don’t think you can protect your children from everything, but could this have been avoided by observing behavior?? I doubt it. The only way this could have been avoided was by not having the child and dog play together supervised or otherwise.
    Sometimes accidents happen. Children and dogs should still not ever be left alone unsupervised. We still have this dog. She is 13. The daughter is 21 and wears that scar with pride. She calls it her souvenir of having Lacy in her life.
    All we can really do is be mindful and of course understand that both children and dogs are innocents requiring educated and gentle direction from their stewards and parents.
    Great article, by the way.

  51. The parent should have a well established alpha roll in the pack. When the child is aggressive towards the dog they should be punished right away. Cruel behavior to animals needs to be stopped. My son who is almost 24 said this morning one of the thing he best remembers me saying was “if it has teeth it can bite”. He was raised with two canine siblings as he was an only child. His sibling taught him a great deal.

  52. Thank you very much for this information. We have 4 dogs and 2 granddaughters and we didn’t really know what to look for. So if my lab/husky mix licks her lips when a toddler is eating in the high chair, that’s not a bad sign, right?

    • Hi Debby,
      I’m glad this was helpful. I would look at the rest of your dog’s body while watching the toddler eat. If he seems stiff or nervous that might be a problem, but I’d venture to say he is probably drooling and licking his lips in anticipation of food. He probably knows the toddler in a chair scenario is associated with free food for him. :)

  53. I’d suggest teaching the kids how to detect stress, as well as what kind of behavior is appropriate with dogs. Kids are potentially more cogitative than dogs, although we often don’t make them responsible for monitoring their own behavior. I think it would be a great lesson to learn this other, nonverbal “language.” I’ve seen some great, intuitive behavior from kids who are more in tune with the needs and body language of dogs.

  54. Someimes excited children run directly towards a dog and they may completely take a dog off gaurd surprising him to reacte in a surprising manner. Occasionally small children approach dogs from the back, instead of making eye contact first. I will tell children to approach a new ( strange to them) dog slowly, and open their hands so the dog can smell them first as opposed to quickly reaching out to pet them, without notice. It’s great to see children and dogs make a new friend.

    • Thanks, Joaane. Great tips. And it is great to see kids and dogs when the relationship is good. Very heartwarming, but it does take a little orchestration initially to set things up for success.

  55. I’m always shocked by how many people don’t read dog’s languages well. Yawning and licking the lips is a very big clue for a dog who has pretty good bite suppression abilities. But no dog is a saint. Freaks me out when I see people posting pics of their young kids lying on their large dogs, it’s almost an “in your face” to everyone to prove how gentle their dog is. But the moment that child who has been taught to treat the dog like a bed, wanders over to the food dish at the wrong time, it won’t be good. A little 6 year old boy was recently killed by his grandparents dog because he was trying to ride the “gentle” dog. Read the signs.

  56. Thank you for posting this..I have dogs all of my life and raised 4 kids and now have 13 gkids..I am a FIRM believer in this..IF people could learn to read a dogs’ body language we wouldn’t have so many people afraid of dogs that they shouldn’t be afraid of…I don’t feel that a child SHOULD be allowed to climb all over a dog, and pull ears, tail, or anything else..OR be mean to a pet…Supervision protects EVERYBODY…Oh..my dogs….1 is 15, she’s a border collie mix I’ve had her ever since she was born, 1 is a JackRussell terrier that I adopted when she was 2, she’s now 15, my late husband and I adopted a Rot/pit Mix who was one and now is almost 4 and I adopted a Pitbull pup last year who was 1 at the time…there’s NO way would I expect any animal to put up with any type of abuse..nor should it be allowed to happen.. thank you for the tips!!

    • Thanks, Vicki. I agree with you. The more we can educate people about canine body language the better off everyone (including the dogs!) will be.

  57. My friend was attacked by a dog at our friend’s house when she was 10. She required 30 stitches to her upper arm. Our friend’s mother was able to get the dog off her by throwing a shoe at the dog. I’ve heard of parents physically trying to grab the dog (even if it’s their own) and separating it from the child (which I understand may be instinct) but then the parent can end up getting injured themselves. If a dog attacks you or a child, then it’s always a good idea to have something to put between you and the dog or the child and the dog.

    • Ouch! Meghan. That is scary. I agree that trying to grab dogs fighting is never a great idea. Unfortunately it’s such an instinct for people. But it’s much better to either make a really loud sound to startle the dogs, put something in between them, or even throw a blanket over the dog (again to startle and disorient them). Of course, trying to be rational at a stressful time is hard too.

      • I think that it’s better to learn these skills as early as possible, so that they become instinct as we grow older. We are still friends now 17 years later and this incident has not put her off dogs altogether. She was a dog owner back then, and she now has 4 dogs of her own today, 2 Rhodesian ridgeback x’s and maltese x poodles, so 2 big and 2 little.

  58. As an owner of a small dog, who happens to love children, please don’t use my “puppy” to teach kids their first etiquette lesson with dogs. She’s not a biter, but seeing her abused through pulling ears, tails, hair, and more, leaves me troubled. Children should be taught the basics in behavior around dogs, the dog shouldn’t teach them.

    • Yes Robin, there was an incident on the news a few weeks ago where a 2 year-old boy was mauled to death by his grandma’s bull mastiff. This dog had been trained to hunt pigs. The grandma sent the boy outside around to the back of the house to get ice cream with the dog on the loose. The child might have squealed with excitement, which may have got the dog’s attention. When the grandma came outside and found the dog attacking the boy, she went to physically separate them, but got injured in the process.

  59. Rhianna, Concerning the growl, I have a 1o lb male Pomeranian who never learned how to play with children or other dogs when he was a puppy. I would put him on the bed and we would play “dodge paws” while both of us would growl playfully at each other. His eyes were bright, tail up, and he would rear up and spread his arms wide like a little bear cub, then lean way down and stick up his rear end and growl at me. If he nipped or happened to catch me with a claw, I would yell “OUCH” and he would stop, thinking he hurt me. He didn’t, of course, but I wanted him to be aware that he needed to be careful how he played. Now he is four years old, and when he does play with children he is the most gentle little thing! If a child is not careful, he is the one who retreats and finds a place to hide so no one gets hurt. I always make sure he has a place to go.
    On the other hand, when we are out and about, if he senses danger, he will growl a warning growl, and then give a warning bark. He won’t bite, but will lean against me to let me know that something is very wrong. I may not see his eyes, but his body language tells me to watch out, and he has never been in error. This is the kind of dog you want to have.

  60. Great simple observation tips for parents. I have been a ‘dog owner’ trainer for over 20 years and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “…and then suddenly without warning…” either the dog bit someone or got into a dog fight.

    One thing to mention is to NOT scold the dog for growling at the children since that may only suppress growling and may give the dog no other alternative than to escalate to the next level of ‘hints’ he can give.

    • I agree, Gina. Both children AND adults bend down to pat dogs they don’t know, then the dog jumps up and tries to bite them, yet they still call that an “unprovoked attack.” Dogs are actually colour blind, so if you try to imagine how they see things (along with other animals such as sharks, because they are also colour blind), is there really such a thing as an “unprovoked attack?”

    • It amazes me how many times I hear people tell their dogs NOT to growl! As a groomer, I really appreciate the warning!

      • I completely agree with what you are saying. I think Linda hit the nail on the head though…most people just see growling as a bad behavior that needs to stop rather than seeing it as a warning signal that we should appreciate. We just want to keep reminding people of the purpose of the growl! Good points.

  61. We adopted a pitbull puppy when my daughter was two years old. I have a lot of dog experience so we worked hard on teaching her appropriate behavior with our puppy and watching our dog’s body language and how she felt about having children around. For us we had a problem that isn’t talked about as much. Our dog is extremely patient and submissive so our daughter has grown up doing things like hugging her and spooning with her when she sleeps. The dog seems to enjoy this too so we let them do it. But despite everything I say about “Never do this behavior with a dog you don’t know really well!” the actions spoke louder than my words. Last summer all I did was turn my back for a moment and she leaned over to hug a dog we didn’t know well (and who was very small and nervous) and the dog bit her in the face as soon as she did! It was a hard way for her to learn and myself and the dog’s owner were mortified. And it made me think a lot about how we can tell our kids something over and over again but it doesn’t always sink in. (she was ok by the way and just needed an ice pack)

    • Hi Julie, I’m so glad your daughter was ok. How scary. You are right though, it’s hard for kids to realize that things they might be able to do with their own dog they can’t always do with another dog. Actually, that’s even hard for me sometime. I love to kiss my dog on the head and sometimes I have to fight the urge to do it to my client’s dogs. :)

  62. I advise parents to crate train the dog. Teach the dog that the crate is a wonderful, safe place to go where he will be left alone and not bothered. Once crate trained, leave the crate door open and accessible for the dog. At the same time, train your kids… teach them how to properly behave around dogs. Also teach them to leave the dog alone when in the crate. Teach them that the crate is where the dog goes for quiet time and he is to be left undisturbed when inside. I have seen many dogs use this to escape when the kids are getting too annoying and the dog needs to decompress.

    • I love crate training too, Amanda! And it’s wonderful to have a safe spot for the dog (although you do have to remind the kids the crate is off limits to them! LOL)

  63. It always amazes me how much people expect dogs to tolerate from children. Like they aren’t supposed to feel pain. I was at the vet’s office one night and a man came in with a very sick German Shepherd. A woman was there with a toddler that had been careening around the waiting room for at least the 15 minutes that I had been waiting. She was paying no attention to where the child was. While the man was checking in, keeping his dog close to his side, this kid walked right up to the poor German Shepherd and stuck his finger right up the dog’s nose! I was horrified. The dog backed up, the man looked down and saw the kid and promptly stepped between him and the dog, more to protect the dog, I think. I looked at the lady whose kid it was, as she continued to totally ignore what was going on and I finally say, ‘Hey, lady, you need to mind your kid!’. The kid tried to approach the dog several times after that. I told the guy if the dog bites the kid and he needed a witness in court that it was justified, I’d be happy to give him my name. Geez.

  64. Hi there,
    This was an excellent, to the point, article on this very important issue of kids and dogs.
    I am on committee of a community dog training club, not for profit. May we use this article in our next newsletter?
    We have a great Beginners obedience class and offer higher grade training as a pathway to trialling but have recently found it necessary to add a pet dog class for those who don’t wish to go down that pathway. These are exactly issues we would continue to address, not only in Puppy class, Beginners but also this new class.
    Thanking you.

    • Hi Jan, I would be happy to have you use it. I sent you a separate email with a pdf I created. Let me know if you didn’t get that and I can resend it. Thanks so much for helping to educate others.

  65. pls teach both dog and child, that the dogs basket / bed is off limits to the child and the dog is to be left completely alone there. ( doggie safe spot).
    pls dont let your 3 year old walk the dog.
    thank you :-)

    • Great tip, Suz! I almost mentioned that in my post. It is important to have a dog safe spot for the dog. Thanks for the reminder.

  66. Unfortunately, this info doesn’t get to the people that really need it! I think a well done handout would be nice!

    • Hi Linda, Thanks for your comment. I sent you a separate email with a pdf handout that I created yesterday. However, anyone is welcome to use this. I have my permissions policy on my website at this link if you would like to share anything from my website. I would love to share this information as widely as possible since my dream is to help others learn about keeping dogs safe.

      http://www.robinkbennett.com/permissions-policy/

      If you didn’t get my direct email, please let me know. I hope this helps. Thanks.

      • Yes I agree, Linda. I have actually heard parents say that they don’t believe in this sort of thing. I think it’s a slight case of the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

  67. First and foremost, always keep in mind (no matter how cute, sweet, etc.) that a dog is a dog and will always react to anything as a dog first. He (or she) is not a human in a doggy costume!

  68. Good info for all dog owners, parents, and non dog owners. Be aware at all times knowing where your dog /or other pet or child is. You always need to know what either are up too! Mostly mischief!!!!

  69. The title of this article is misleading. It should be ‘Why supervising kids and dogs HASNT worked, not ‘Doesn’t’ work. As the article states, it hasn’t worked because it’s not done properly, not because it’s a bad idea.

    • Hi Mary, Thanks for your comment. I did have another person mention this as well. The point in the title was really directed at pet professionals whose primary advice is “Supervise” and that doesn’t work without explaining how to supervise. I went with a shorter title just because longer titles tend to get cut off. But you are correct that I do agree supervision, done properly, is helpful. We just need to help educate people on what supervision looks like.

      • I thought that headline was great hook….. I opened it ONLY because I was wondering why someone would think that. The result was that I got to read a great article, and share it. :) Just my two cents.

  70. I am so glad this is out there for people to read…I think that so many people need more training than dogs…People get a dog and never do any work to recognize what the dog needs or realize they have a responsibility when they get a dog to know that dog and know that all dogs have bite potential if given the stimulus, rarely the dogs fault. I see humans do things every day, heck I do things everyday around me dog that could get me bit..I know it and would know why my dog bit, if he did…so many do things they aren’t even aware make their dog uncomfortable or seem like a threat to them!!!

  71. I have a couple of very shy greyhounds that were both abused (no, really) while racing. We had a roommate living with us for a while that thought she knew everything about dogs. However, she was of the “dominate” school of thought. She also thought that one of my boys had “claimed” her and thought she was the cat’s meow. One night she got in his face, being funny she thought. He moved his head to get away from her (he was lying on the sofa). I told her to leave him alone; he wasn’t interested in playing with her. He ended up putting his face in the sofa cushion. Once she backed up, he pulled his face back out. She went after him again, and he snapped at her. She wasn’t hurt, thankfully, but given the nature of people to sue these days, I was concerned. The two of them had other issues that she seemed oblivious to. She obviously had no clue how to deal with the situation, and I eventually had to kick her out. What I really wanted to do was to tell her what an idiot she was.

  72. I normally tell my dog off when he growls at the kids (I also tell the kids off too). My thinking is that I’m telling my dog that aggression is not ok with the kids. Is this right? Am I right to think this?

    • Hi Stacy, It’s good that you are interrupting the behavior so that it does not continue. The only caution I would provide in this situation is that you don’t want whatever you are doing to tell off the dog to accidentally suppress the dog’s growl. Since a growl is a warning sign we don’t want to get rid of the warning sign because that can lead to a dog that bites without a growl or warning. Although the growl is not a great thing, it is at least an early warning signal that gives humans information. I would look at trying to determine what situations cause the dog to growl and then try to prevent those from happening (intervene before the growl starts) or turn them into positive experiences (for instance, if having a child in the room with the dog causes the dog to growl, see if increasing the distance between the two and giving the dog something tasty to chew on while his is in the same room (but far away) will help. In other words, the training should be happening to change the emotion of the dog or to prevent the bad situation from occurring, so that ultimately you don’t have to tell off either the dog or the child (easier said than done of course!). Hope that helps.

  73. I LOVED this article! As a mom, grandmother and dog owner, I found it very, very helpful. It’s about time more people took the time to learn canine body language, calming and distress signals! Thank you!

    • Hi Sara, Thanks for this feedback. We are realizing some strain on our current hosting service due to the popularity of this post. This evening the server will be switched to one with more bandwidth so I’m hoping the problem will be resolved. I appreciate everyone’s patience as we work with the technology and timing to resolve things.

  74. Wow. Who knew? Well, I’m sure lots of people, I guess. I’ve seen these signs in many dogs, my own included (many many years ago). I am very thankful these “dogs had good bite inhibition and intervene before it’s too late”.

    Thank you!

  75. Our 25 lb schnauzer yawns in contexts of happiness or relief, such as when I sit down and begin petting him, or when he has just done a medic alert inspection of my partner and decides he is okay. What follows the yawn is a flop and present stomach for rubbing, or inviting my partner to play. We take it to mean, “Okay, I’ve got what I wanted, now I’m relaxing.”

    • Hi Flora, I think your observations are correct. The yawning is often a release of tension which is why we often use it as a signal for stress. If there was no need to release tension (felt while doing a medic alert inspection or other job, or felt when the animal might just be in an uncomfortable situation), he wouldn’t need to yawn. So I think it does mean the dog is trying to relax. Good observation of your dog!

  76. I think this is great advice. I have four pups but when we have children over we always talk to the kids first. We make sure to tell the kid’s what is ok and not ok to play with my pups. We educate everyone that come through the door cause before they greet the my pups.

    • Hi Patricia, Thanks for your kinds words. You are doing a great job with your kids too! Thanks for helping to teach others.

  77. I beleive the “mouth” is the most telling in the picture. Also in this portrait photo the 3 kids to one dog is too much for the dog to tolerate. I get the feeling that one of the three kids is too pushy and makes the dog uncomfortable in general. Sometimes the nicest kid can be a little to much for a dog’s boundaries. My husband always says: it’s not fair to the dog, when you put the dog in a situation that the dog can “make a mistake”.

    • My dad used to train dogs and I have actually heard him say to people, “Look, it’s the kid that annoys the dog,” and even though I do understand that it’s the parents’ job to protect their child, I do agree with him because we may annoy them without even realising, just like we can with people. Nowadays, we try to use education to protect ourselves from danger as much as possible.

  78. While I think this is great advice the title is very misleading. Supervision is part of the whole. Intervention, learning dog cues, reinforcing good behavior like avoidance are part of a larger strategy.

    • Hi Bshaxb, I completely agree with you. The title was to catch the attention of the pet professionals on my blog who often give out the advice to supervise. My point was that supervision is great, but will only work if we help people learn what they are watching. I just chose a shorter title because “Supervision works great but people don’t know how to supervise their dogs and kids without us teaching them” was way to long. But I appreciate your feedback and do agree that supervision is a part of a larger strategy. Thanks

  79. Great tips. I’m wondering if you’d look for the same things when supervising play between more than one dog?

    • Hi Beth, Yes, I would look for many of the same things when supervising play between more than one dog. Stiffening is still a sign of potential problems. The stress signals and avoidance are also still pertinent. Growling can still be a problem, although dogs will sometimes growl while playing, but if you have growling with some of the other signs, I would separate the dogs. In dog play, I would also watch and intervene if one dog keeps pinning another dog on the ground or if one dog keeps rolling another dog. Hope that helps. You might also find this book helpful
      http://www.robinkbennett.com/off-leash-dog-play/

  80. Great article! The only thing I would add re: growling – so many people punish the dog for that signal, then later on wonder why the dog bites “without warning”. It’s so important for people to recognize it for what it is, a warning that the dog is reaching the limit of what it can tolerate.

  81. Great article! The only thing I would add re: growling – so many people punish the dog for that doing that, then later on wonder why the dog bites “without warning”. It’s so important for people to recognize it for what it is, a warning that the dog is reaching the limit of what it can tolerate.

  82. They forgot to say the most important thing: TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO TREAT DOGS !!!!! Without this the other suggestions mentioned are useless.

  83. Your article above does emphasise goods signs on behaviour for the untrained, but I have to say I am sorry to read this article above.

    If people spent time with their animals and taught them by pulling their ears, touch them on the head, side, stomach,back and pulled their ears while they fed, took the bone from their mouths (and gave it back), made them wait for food and roads and leashes, going to the park and playing then you’d see a different animal. Behaviour can be trained, be it slower in certain breads but the same goes for humans.

    Teaching your children is the same as teaching them about animals and teaching the animals about people. What’s right and wrong (yes and no, good and bad, what are toys and what are not) is about teaching the dog who the masters are including children.

    It still does not mean your dogs alone with kids, but at least you’d have a much better bond with your dog and child as you all bonded together.

    After all, a dog is a man/woman’s (human’s?) best friend!

    • Thanks for your comment, Ian. I did not at all mean to imply that if you supervise you do not need to train the children or dogs. As a dog trainer, I believe both of those are important. So I agree that you should train behavior in both the kids and the dog as well as know what to supervise in the two. Thanks.

  84. Wow, this is information that every dog owner should know with or without kids. Too many people have dogs and don’t understand them. Thats where the problems arise. Every dog owner should educate themselves on dog behavior. There would be so many less dog bites, and abandoned/stray/abused dogs.

  85. Our dog whines as a warning sign as well. And she’ll back her body away but keep her head facing a child.

    We’ve gotten to the point to where we just tell parents to keep toddlers and young kids away from her. She’s incredibly nervous around them from my spouse’s nephews trying to ride her. The in-laws thought it was cute until she snapped at them. And, of course, they said she was a “bad dog” for doing so. No, she’s defending her comfort zone. No one should have to be obligated to tolerate being ridden, slapped, cornered, tugged on, or otherwise touched if they don’t want to be. And I really have to give our dog credit. She snaps and barks (I call it yelling at them) but doesn’t bite. Kids will cry in response, but she doesn’t actually hurt anything more than feelings. I just wish the parents would keep their kids away from her after we tell them to.

    • As much as we don’t love to see the snapping and barking, I do love a dog that will do that rather than bite! You are doing the right thing by being your dog’s advocate and helping to keep everyone safe. And kudos for being able to recognize all her cues!

  86. Good God! I never heard such rubbish in my life. At age 5 I received my first puppy. In a year he was 120 lbs. We were inseparable. No hovering parents.
    I insisted that he sleep in my bed and when denied this I would simply get up in the middle of the night and let him in. He slept there for 14 years till he died. No bites, no fights just a boy and his beloved dog.
    Why do people have to make things so complicated?

    • Most children develop differently from one another, so it really depends on childhood development. They could have a behavioural condition like ADD, ADHD or even Autism.

  87. This so much! But not only do parents need to supervise; they need to teach proper behaviour around animals as well, whether they own dogs themselves or not. Maybe I just live in a particularly bratty neighbourhood, but I have far too many stories of kids approaching strangers dogs and interacting with them without asking permission (and I don’t mean a nice pat on the head, I mean ear/tail/mouth pulling). So frustrating!

    • Total agree, Celine. Supervision is just one part of the equation. Teaching both kids and dogs how to behave is important too!

    • True, Celine. In some cases, the parents themselves also need to learn the proper behaviour around animals, whether it’s their own pet or not.

  88. Jake, my 6 year old Shepherd mix (111 pounds) is excellent with very small children. He likes anything that would be considered a ‘baby’ (chicks, kittens, puppies, tiny humans). He’s perfect with my two teenagers but he’s funny about older (or maybe taller?) children and adults, especially men. I always take Jake outside on a leash because I’m not sure that he wouldn’t nip someone…plus, I don’t want him running off or getting hit by a car. Anyway, he reacts so violently when new people come over, jumping against the glass door, growling, barking, and drooling. He has sprayed his anal glands before if someone scares him. When I have company over, I put Jake in my bedroom. After everyone is inside the house and we have been talking a bit, Jake is fine to come out and meet everyone. Is this a territory thing? Fear? I’m not in denial that it could be aggression, but I’m leaning more towards fear from his body language. He’s perfect at the vet’s office and sits quietly and shakes hands with the staff, even though he doesn’t like it there and is nervous and clingy. I don’t push Jake into situations I know he won’t be comfortable with and I know his limits with visitors. At his age, is there anything that I can do to help him realize that it’s ok for people to come through the door and be in ‘his’ home? At 111 pounds, he’s a bit hard to tug into a bedroom and although he’s never pulled me around with his leash, I doubt I could stop him easily if he tried.

    • Hi Jayne, Without seeing the dog it’s hard to say for sure, but what you are describing sounds like fear to me. However, I would also say that the vast majority of aggressive displays I see in dogs are a result of fear. Dogs get scared and then use aggression to protect themselves. It sounds like you are doing all the right things to be your dog’s advocate. With a 6 year old dog, he’s likely to always be fearful so I would really just be working to help him be as comfortable as possible in new situations. Look for ways to make things as positive and fun for him as possible. If he has a favorite toy, give him that when people come over. If he loves bones, give him one of those when someone comes to the house. Then, as much as possible, I would also try to limit his ability to practice any unwanted behaviors like jumping at the door. If you know people are coming over, I would put him someplace before they get to the door. For more detailed guidance, I would recommend a dog trainer to help you. Check out http://www.apdt.com for guidance on how to find a trainer and see if there is someone in your area. Hope that helps.

  89. A simple guideline that might work for some kids too. If you want to do something that you think is benign but it is new to your own (familiar) dog, keep it under 5 seconds the first time and stop – watch and see if the dog wants away or gives some other sign. 5 seconds seems to be enough for the dog to make up its mind about how uncomfortable it is about the new situation, and to ‘tell’ you so. (for somethings of course you might get an instant response) But you may need to stop and really look at the dog. Let the dog go if it is uncomfortable. You might then make a plan for adapting the dog to something that is appropriate or necessary (for example, cleaning ears by an adult). Kids should only engage in tested behaviors with the dog. And even these may change as the dog ages. Unfortunately for the dog, kids always like to try new things. Supervise with this 5 seconds in mind – supervise closely.

      • And always make sure to have something with you to quickly put between the child and dog if the dog lunges at the child. Something like a towel or handbag. You can’t put a price on your child’s safety.

        • That’s a much safer option than actually physically trying to grab hold of the dog and separate the two.

  90. Hi.. Maybe you can help me with my issues with dogs.

    It’s not that I don’t like dogs. I DO like dogs. I just am SCARED of dogs biting myself or my children, mainly afraid for my children. It takes me about 5-6 meetings with a dog and it has to display signs of being amenable to being trained/nice to us/shows obvious warnings when it is uncomfortable and my children before I feel even a little bit comfortable around the dog. My neighbors have 2 shepherds and a terrier that are all nice dogs. I have grown very comfortable with my child touching/petting/playing fetch with their dogs. The one shepherd sometimes displays signs of being overwhelmed and we stop the play before she escalates. I like that she gives such clear warning signs of being uncomfortable and that she is so amenable to us helping her to retreat. I AM afraid though when my husband is up there that he will not recognize the signs and my child will be bit. I have a feeling that this dog would not maul him, though, that she would simply give a warning growl or nip, since she is a shepherd. I still don’t want to see that happen! I will show him this article, I think it’ll help him to recognize when the dog is feeling anxious and stop the situation.

    However, how do I deal with family with dogs that repeatedly show trouble with my child but they INSIST on forcing interaction between them? Re: why can’t we just put the dog in one room and my children in another?

    I don’t get the “part of the family” mentality that they have. If someone in the family was threatening to hit me every time I went in the kitchen.. I’d not invite that family member to gatherings anymore!

    It has gotten to the point where I deprive my children of time with their Grandma because of the dogs down there that are really not kid friendly dogs. The dogs are NOT comfortable.. They display many of the warning signs you say, and have lunged at and nipped towards my children before. Yet their owners insist that the dog is “playing” … ? I am so afraid that these uncomfortable dogs are going to bite my 4 year old or my baby girl that I shake and will not sit down and.. like I said.. I just don’t go visit down there now which is really unfortunate. How can people not pick up on their dog growling at my son and freezing and staring at my baby? Should I just come out and address this? I don’t want to start a family fight.

    My other problem is my fear. Is anyone else really afraid of new dogs around your children? I can’t even breath most of the time, I start to sweat and feel so hot, when a new dog is meeting us if the owner isn’t right there literally with their hand on their dogs muzzle. I don’t like it one bit. I am terrified, honestly. I was bitten in the thigh as a child by a cocker spaniel that chased me down the street and pinned me to the ground.. I don’t know how to get past feeling so afraid of encounters with new dogs and I don’t want to pass this on to my children.. so for them I try sooo hard to let them interact with dogs in a positive way.. But I am also scared of them being bit/mauled and me allowing more than I should because I know I’m more afraid than I should be.
    Sorry for the long post. Hope you have some advice. Thanks. :)

    • Hi Elaine,
      My father was a dog trainer and I have a background in dog training myself. I did a course of dog obedience classes 10 years ago. Dog obedience classes are actually NOT specifically about training your own dog. They are about teaching people about interacting safely with dogs in order to be able to deal with them effectively. I would recommend this training to everyone whether they are a dog owner or not, because lets face it, you can’t avoid dogs 100%. I have been doing this sort of thing for 10 years now and never had a problem.
      . Forcing a child to interact with a dog is never a good idea. Dogs pick up fear from we humans. When a dog is scared, their ears will often be pricked up, mouth closed and walk backwards with their tail down between their legs. If you are afraid of a dog biting your child, it is a good idea to always carry with you something that you can put between your child and the dog, like a towel or a handbag, as this will most likely distract the dog. It’s a much safer option than actually physically trying to grab the dog and separating the two with your hands, as the dog can attack you in the process.
      . Your fear. I understand that you are really only scared of new dogs around your children. Unfortunately, in around 70% of dog attacks, these happen from dogs that are actually known to the child in some way. A fear of dogs is called Cynaphobia and it’s very common. The bad news is that it is actually related to depression (and possibly anxiety) but the good new is that it is very treatable. If you look it up on Google, there are suggestions for treatments for this condition.

      • Also, make sure that both you and your children know to always let a dog sniff the back of your hand first, whether or not it’s your own dog, because this is how they judge whether they feel comfortable with you or not. Good luck :)

        • Sorry, I mean that when a dog shows fear, it’s ears will be pricked BACK not up as I accidentally said earlier, eyes bulging, mouth closed and will step backwards with tail between legs.

          • I also think that you really should show this article to the family. Even though any form of human social interaction is good for the dog, if done properly as it gets them better socialized, which can be less likely to cause an attack, you really should never force it upon the child or dog.

      • Sorry for all of the posts here, but the dogs may have been teased/bothered by a child/person in the past unintentionally. Children don’t always understand these things and neither do dogs. Dogs are actually colour blind. Through my background in disability, I have heard that if you lose sensation in one area, other senses are often actually enhanced. For dogs, their ears and noses are often their eyes. Also, I found out recently that scientific studies have actually proven that the hormone that produces the bond between a child and a dog and a dog and it’s owner is actually the same hormone that establishes the bond that is produced between a mother and her baby while breastfeeding. It’s called oxytocin. Sorry if that scares you, but it’s the truth.

    • He Elaine, This is a tough situation. I’m sorry about you being bitten before and that can certainly create some anxiety. For your own fear it may take some time and perhaps even working with a counselor to help you best overcome that fear. Education is certainly a part of helping to overcome it, but I know that when emotional trauma of any sort is involved, sometimes the rational side of education doesn’t always overcome the emotional. So that may take some additional help. That being said, I do think you are doing the right things to help your kids. Although you don’t want your fear to become theirs, it does seem as if the dogs you mention show some signs of being uncomfortable around your children and it is your job to keep you kids safe. If you can point out the body language in the dogs and explain why the dogs are uncomfortable (perhaps showing them this article), that might help. Then I would ask the kids and dogs be in separate rooms when they are together. Hope that helps.

      • Yes, that’s why I suggested earlier showing your family this article, perhaps even giving them their own copy. Sometimes people tend to benefit more from reading material than just someone telling these things, because by reading, they may be able to refer back to the information more easily. It does also depend on the child’s development though.

  91. There is a page on Facebook called Moms & Dads Against Dog Attacks On Their Children. Someone should really show them this article.
    I only looked at this page because I wanted to find out what parents were really doing to prevent such incidents from happening. That page is more about just protecting the children in general, but not about teaching them in order to protect themselves.
    I mentioned on there that my father used to train dogs and I have heard him say, “Look, it’s the kid that annoys the dog.” Their reply was, “I’m sorry, but your father’s wrong. A dog can attack for many reasons.” Yes, I thought. Many reasons. People being one of the main ones, even if it is unintentional. So, in a way, both he and I are right.

  92. Someone on here said before on here, who has time to read a dog’s body language when you have children to focus on? I think that it depends on the family’s circumstances, as well. My course of dog obedience training, where we learnt basically all of the above, was 2 hours of class per week for 10 weeks, 10 years ago now. At the time, my mother was working a job where on most days, she would have to travel for 1 hour to work and back, often having to travel overseas, to support having 2 children both with disabilities, yet she still managed to come to most of these classes with me, as they were also for her. She did this because she along with me was passionate about our dogs and we both wanted what’s best for them, as any good parent does with their child. The classes I went to were mostly parent & child participants. These lessons IMPORTANT for the WHOLE family, not just the kids.

  93. Great info and article! I did feel I had to clarify the title to those I shared this with – clarifying that supervising ‘does’ work with kids and dogs when we understand the dog’s behaviour. As the title reads – its sounds like supervising cannot work. Best regards, Will

    • Thanks for sharing the information, Will. I completely agree with you. Supervision is good, but it won’t work if people don’t know what they are watching. It was really geared toward pet professionals to help explain why just saying “Supervise” isn’t effective. Not to mention that “Supervision is great but it won’t work unless you teach people about dog body language” is way too long to be a title. Hopefully the title causes people to read the article and they can then see the point of it. Thanks for the feedback and for sharing it with others.

  94. What a great educational post, I totally agree with everything you have in this post, there is one thing I would like to add. Some people cannot read sign language, not the kind the deaf use but the everyday signs most people and all dogs use, they, for some reason just can’t recognize or interpret signs. An example, I once knew a gentleman, God rest his soul, who told me of how his wife died, she had heart problems and was in distress and needed her medication, she signed to him she needed her medication but he could not understand, he broke down and cried while telling me the story. It had been over ten years since his wife had passed ant they had been married for over thirty years. Some people should not have dogs, not because they are cruel, uncaring, or not trustworthy but because they cannot communicate properly with their dog! Communication, understanding, and education are the keys to having a good pet. I would like to re-post your article on my web page, with your permission, Have a great day.

    • Hi Richard, Thanks for your comments. I agree communication, understanding and education are keys. I would love for you to share this information. However, it would be best if you would only copy excerpts from the post on your website and then link back to the original article. Unfortunately, when the entire post gets recopied onto another site, Google penalizes the websites because it’s search engines can’t determine the original source. For this reason I don’t allow the entire post to be copied in full. You can see my permission policy at this link. http://www.robinkbennett.com/permissions-policy/
      I hope that makes sense. Thanks again for helping to educate others.

  95. Alot of people seems to forget that not all are hearing people. There are alot of deaf people with dogs and children. I am one of them. Being deaf dont mean I have to hear my dogs growl. All I have to do is watch their body languages. So please dont put just for hearing people. There are some deaf people that dont get the warnings. I always do just like as you said about supervisions. Thank you for reading/listening.

    • Hi Sue Ann, I’m not sure if your comment was directed at me or someone else. I certainly don’t forget that not all people can hear. In fact, I have a hearing aid in one ear myself, and I also had a great dog trainer who worked for me that was hearing impaired. If I somehow indicated those who can’t hear well shouldn’t have dogs that was not at all the case.

  96. Agree a 1000% – I always say that people should be educated on dog behaviour before they are allowed to take in a dog. And once the parents are aware of the body language and behaviour of their dog they should teach the kids how to behave around the dog. More education is the only answer.

  97. Hi Robin
    Brilliant advise. I am a teacher and volunteer dog walker who assists with training new volunteers too. I would love to turn this brilliant advise into a poster with visuals. I have an artist in mind who created an informative summer poster for the Dogs’ Refuge Home, and is free to download at doggie.drawings.net.

    I’ve also put together a responsible dog ownership/welfare book for the home. We get many families with kids and I wanted to share all the important information I had picked up as a volunteer.

    I will credit all the information to you and cover all costs. Please advise.

    Regards
    Gaye

    • Hi Gaye, Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your interest. My permissions policy can be found at this link: http://www.robinkbennett.com/permissions-policy/ I do have a handout I can send you separately that you might be able to use in your ownership book. At this point I cannot provide permission regarding the poster, but I will ask you a few questions about that via email as well. The link you provided did not seem to work though. Thanks again and look for an email from me shortly.

  98. How about this novel idea, try teaching the kids how to respect dogs. Like you gave a passing mention to in the article, don’t let them poke, prod etc at your dog. Teach them to always ask the owner before saying hello to strange dogs. Teach the kids not to run round screaming in high pitched voices around excitable dogs and most importantly teach the kids the warning signals and potential “danger zones” (like feeding time) with dogs.

  99. Is the yawning always a bad thing? My dog Tiny yawns quite often, even when there’s nothing irritating him or scaring him.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Oh and there’s no children involved in these situations most of the time, he just has always been a “yawner”. He’s also an otherwise healthy dog, daily walks, yearly vet visits more if needed, very mellow and gentle.

    • Hi Jessica, That’s a great question. I think every dog has a baseline of behaviors that are normal for that dog. Some dogs are more excited, more calm, more stressed, etc. For instance, my german shepherd always lived in a more nervous state than my lab. So her baseline looked a little different than his. I would say if your dog’s normal relaxed state at home includes some yawning, then I’d pay more attention when that signal increases in a new environment. hope that helps.

  100. Thank you! So many perfectly good dogs get put to death because people just let children or strangers basically bully them. I just can’t believe there are people who stand idly by while a child yanks on a dog, or even put them at risk of a broken back, and does nothing. And they blame the dog for snapping? Geez…

    This needs to be proclaimed from the rooftops, and people need to train their kids to understand animals have feelings too, JUST as much as they need to train their animals.

  101. this is really common sense and if you are considering getting a dog or already have one you should already know these things. I made one of the worst decisions the past couple years and went from 1 small dog to 3 big dogs and a small dog in less than a year around the time we got dog #3 I found out I was pregnant. my dogs all loved to lay all over me and my baby belly when I found out, when my daughter came home from the hospital she weighed roughly 4 lbs and my dogs no longer cared for my baby belly(thanks goodness because I had her via csection!) they were now obsessed with the tiny person they weren’t allowed around. today my lil preemie is 10 months old and almost 20 lbs AND crawling, her and the dogs all run around my house together and all get along wonderfully. my dogs are always watched when they play together. she pulls on them and they lick her and follow her everywhere.

  102. I agree with some of this article…however a dog that yawns outside the context of just waking up, I do not agree with. My dog yawns all the time, and is a very easy going dog. He goes to my kids and lays by them and yawns the entire time…

  103. Brilliantly said! I have done dog aggression rehabilitation and without a doubt lack of understanding dog body language is responsible for many dog bites especially to children.

  104. The dog in the picture is showing signs of stress and is a bad model of how children should interact with a dog. The dog’s mouth is closed and he has a slight moon eye. The best way to avoid a bit is to teach children to respect the dog. Most parents don’t know the signals that dogs show when they are uncomfortable with something.
    Try counter conditioning
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUCl6ndLN7Q
    I am no expert but this is input

  105. My son was holding one of my miniature dachshunds and he was growling and we told him to put the dog down. The dog was essentially warning him that he did not want to play and the boy wouldn’t listen to us or the dog and the dog bit him. Now he knows. He was 14 at the time so his rebellion got him a good lesson in listen to your parents and your dog.

  106. I had a Husky/Collie/GSD mix who absolutely loved children. She would play with them all day and when she got tired of playing or being poked or prodded, she never growled, never snapped , never bit or attempted to bite, she would just leave and go into another room. However if someone, anyone were to try and hurt any of the children she would have taken them apart and I don’t believe I could have stopped her!

  107. I believe this may be one of my favorite articles ever Robin. I had never thought about it as you pointed out…parents need to know “what” they are watching. Thanks…I will be sharing this far and wide!

  108. I live in London Ontario and take my Great Dane and Cocker Spaniel to an off leash DOG park in the East end. What absolutely amazes me are the young parents that bring their infant children along to “see all the dogs”. My Dane ran up to a couple with a little girl and his tail swatted her right in the face cuz it was the perfect height. Do these young parents/kids not realize that certain breeds are trying determine whether your child is a dog or not and while they are running around can easily knock them head over heels. Please share your thoughts so hopefully someone may just possibly use some common sense and prevent a tragedy one day.

  109. Hi !
    I’ve just discovered your website and this article is so simple and helpful. If people knew more about all this, less dogs would end up euthanised or abandoned…not mentioning children who get hurt of course !! I own an Japanese Akita who already has trouble communicating with other dogs by nature, so I’ve always been very careful in the presence of children. It is every owner’s duty to be aware of such things, even more when you’re the owner of an akita. Thanks again, hoping many people will end up on this page !

  110. Great article with points I’ve made many times to pet owners, since the majority of bites to children occur when parents are in the same room! Since you’re writing about a visual topic (what parents should WATCH for), it would be super helpful to show pictures of all you warn about — the stress yawn, the whale eye, nervous lip licking. People don’t SEE these behaviors, and words alone often don’t help them to see and recognize.
    Also, minor point on writing: the half-moon eye sentence had me contorting my own eyes to see my dog’s eyes! :-) Robin writes, “…this means you can see the whites of YOUR outer edges of your dog’s eyes” (my emphasis in capitals). :-)

    • Hi Carmen! All these people reading the post and no one caught that writing mistake! LOL Thanks for letting me know. I updated the original so as not to cause people to contort their own eyes. Great catch. Thanks for your feedback and kind words too!

  111. I would also suggest not disciplining for growling. A dog can’t say “Hey, you are annoying me, please backoff”. Growling is his way of saying that. If dog is disciplined enough times for growling he may stop and just go straight to snapping. It is not a sign of a bad dog, it is a way for him to communicate his displeasure.

  112. Another very obvious sign to read (particularly for young children) is when the dog “smiles” (raises the lips and shows the teeth). Many times there is no growling or other body language and normally this is done with other dogs but also with humans. When they see a dog “smile,” LEAVE THE DOG ALONE!
    Young children can also be taught dogs don’t like to be stared at — threatening to them.

  113. What I didn’t see in your article was anything about teaching the kids about the warning signs.

    As a proud parent of 3 children, who have given us 7 grandkids and owner of 2 dogs, a Rottweiler and a Catahoula, we have taught our young ones several ground rules. If the dog walks away, let it. If the dog goes to its bed or crate, leave it alone. If the dog goes upstairs, DO NOT follow it. We have and we will ( with the youngest children) enforced these rules when they don’t follow them. Our dogs love the kids, but there comes a point when they need down time, and they will go upstairs. They know that they won’t be bothered up there.

    Education of the kids and the parents is the most important thing to help prevent dog bites. Give the dogs a safe haven, and teach the kids that they must leave them alone when the dogs are in that spot. In my opinion, it would reduce the number of bites that do occur.

  114. It is imperative that the dog has a safe haven a place where kids are not allowed. This place should not be banishment to the backyard or garage but a place within the family circle but off limits to children. When my kids were little under the dining room table was the safe spot. If the dog went there no kids could touch her. The place could be a crate or a part of a room, a special rug or bed. When a dog can escape and knows that their choice to leave will be honoured they don’t have to defend themselves from the children in the family.

  115. This is a great list…thank you for this…. more often than not, it is the human behavior that needs to be modified…not the dogs.
    Cheers:)

  116. Pingback: Dogs and Children
  117. This information is very good. However, the author fails to mention the single most important factor in preventing dog bites – neutering male dogs. Intact male dogs are SIX times more likely to bite. The vast majority of dog bites are inflicted by intact male dogs. Neuter your dog, and you have just decreased the risk to you child more than any amount of supervision can.

  118. If you can read body language, you can prevent the problems before they happen. I have 7 dogs in the house, 4 are foster dogs. There are no problems because I jump in and do something before the problems start.

  119. Thank you for an excellent, concrete article, with such a clear list of observable stress signals to watch for in dogs. My dog has done all of those behaviors when visiting toddlers are around. I’ve learned to watch for them from my trainer, and my dog seems quite happy and relieved when I ask her to go to her large, airy, padded crate and shut the door. She is safe from the scary toddlers. I am always careful to give her gentle words, a petting, and affirmation that she’s a good girl when I put her in. Your article is a good reminder of the specific behaviors to look for. I also don’t allow toddlers to play with my dog’s toys or her food dish. I put those away so the dog doesn’t feel “violated.”

  120. Wow, a lot of varied opinions here, I couldn’t read them all. I have some questions regarding my pit since I have never had one. We recently took a 4 yr old that was initially gotten by the 1st owner to fight him. They cut his ears down to his head, but he would not fight. Luckily, instead of killing him, they gave him away to a family with small children and several small dogs. They had to move and couldn’t take him, so they gave him to a young single guy my daughter knows. He couldn’t keep him where he lived either so my daughter wanted him. She lives with me and has a 4 and 5 yr old. As soon as he came in the house, I fell for him so needless to say, he is with us. He has not shown any aggression on any level. Even around his food, he just moves out of the way for a minute so you can do whatever. He is just totally awesome. But, I do have a concern, though not aggressive he has a noticeable problem when my granddaughter is here. He is terribly attached to possessive over me. At first, when they came home, he would get one of their stuffed toys and chew the face out of it. We stopped that problem, but when she is sitting on my lap, he puts his head between us and pushes her off my lap, then licks her face and comes to me. Still not showing any aggression just wants her off of me. The last 2-3 days she’s been here, he tries to pinch her with his front teeth, IF she and I are both playing with him. He pinched her once, but has tried 4-5 times. If she is playing alone with him, he just plays, rubs on her, licks her, etc. Even with his tug rope, how he plays depends on who he is playing with. Very rough with my husband, less with me and very easy with the kids. Should we be concerned with his pinching, that it might escalate to biting her?

    • Hi Kirsten, I would be a bit concerned since he is using his teeth to communicate. It’s hard to really say without seeing the dog. Based on what you describe, though, it sounds as if the behavior is something that can be modified into something better. I would recommend trying to find a trainer in your area that might be able to come over to observe the dog. You can check http://www.apdt.com to find a trainer in your area. In the meantime, i would try to give your dog something else to do or play with when he is most inclined to do the pinching behavior so that he isn’t able to continue to rehearse that behavior. Hope that helps.

  121. Parents should know that growling does not necessarily mean that their dog is aggressive. Aggression is the name you gave to growling in your article & it is not the only reason for a growl. It is not aggression for the dog to defend itself. Growling in this case is a warning that the dog is uncomfortable. Snapping or nipping is the next level of warning & should be avoided. So no, it is not acceptable for any dog to growl (& no it is not cute when a small dog growls) but it does not mean the dog is aggressive & not acceptable for the family. It means you have a last minute warning to intervene & make sure that the child understands that whatever he/she was doing is not acceptable & should not happen again.

  122. Thank you. I am frequently surprised by oblivious dog owners or worse yet overly “humanizing” dog owners. My children and i were hiking a favorite trail one day. On the way down they see a family approach with a large dog no leash. I tell my sons to move to side of trail and not approach the strange dog.(which is good common sense) the owner begins to berate me for encouraging my kids to be afraid of dogs, then proceeds to tell me i hurt her dogs feelings by calling him strange. How dare i do that? I simply informed her my kids safety would always trump the nonexistent emotions of a strange dog.

    Thank you again for stating the obvious.

    • A Pit Bull? That is a characteristic behavior of Pit Bull owners. When I move my terriers out of the way as quickly as possible, I get the same line…. never mind that I have friends who have lost dogs to these bred-to-kill dogs which is one of the reasons I started to keep records and study the dog behavior as well as the psychology of the owners. Having taught in juvenile corrections and with SED teens and having an MA in both psychology and sociology and recently added a BA in Criminology so I have a bit of ‘creds’ for this.

  123. There is a similar pic of a little girl approx 3 yrs old hugging a GSD around the neck.posted on FB..the dogs mouth is closed..he has what looks to be a stiff body language and possibly half moon eyes…hard to tell from the camera angle…I commented that I thought clearly the dog wasn’t happy due to his body language…now the page has deleted my comment and blocked me because everyone’s comment was “oh how precious” (sigh)…

  124. I have taught my kids to speak dog from the time they were little so they can read when theres a problem and they need to back off a bit and I have never had any problems between my kids and my dogs.My youngest who just turned 12 loves dogs and shows his and some of mine in 4H shows.He wants to have a career that involves animals when he grows up.

  125. I would like permission to post some of your articles on our local humane society website. If you agree, how would you like the link or credit to be listed?
    Pam

  126. This is a wonderful article. I am a “dog person” with twenty years of involvement in training and competition in performance sports, esp agility. I have a Labrador as well as five grandchildren. Recently my three-year-old grandson was visiting and was enthralled with my dog and especially thrilled to be able to lead him around by the collar and to pile toys on him and pretend to nap. The little boy is very busy, and my Lab was quite content to play. But after an hour or so, my dog grew weary and would offer a low grumble clearly stating his need to be left alone. We would ask the child to leave him alone, which was hard for him to do as he is a small person with lots of energy, so we either removed the child or put the dog in our bedroom and actually locked the door. My Lab wanted to be in the action, but not always the center of it after a certain point, and the little one loved being in control of such a large creature! We enjoyed their play, but honored the dogs’ limits and usually intervened before he had to tell us he was done. This dog is very mellow and easy going, and he showed us without exposing a tooth or even his body’s stiffening that he too can get tired of a toddler’s activity!!

  127. Well said! I’m a hard core dog lover and as a RN I frequently see dog bites to children. Our society has embraced canines like never before and we have invited millions into our homes, yet only a small percentage of owners really take the time to understand the behaviors of a dog. I developed a presentation about compassion and care for our 4 legged friends and included bite prevention information and I share it at local schools, scouts and churches. The kids really enjoy the information and it is a rewarding presentation to give. I wish that it was required for all youngsters and dog owners to view.

  128. I see a LOT of people who fear the wrong things and pay attention in the wrong ways. People with kids get little dogs thinking they’re toys or ‘bred to be housepets’ but most bites are from small dogs. Especially Chihuahuas. Small dogs are every bit as territorial and possessive as big ones, but much more reactive and easily threatened. That child is exponentially bigger than the dog and the dog knows it. People need to research their breed before getting the cute, fluffy, ‘thing on a string’ that they think a toddler can walk. Many small dogs were bred to be working dogs, not lapwarmers. Failing to understand your dog’s mind and focusing on size is always a terrible idea.
    I also see people bringing kids around all sorts of dogs, but especially large breeds, and spending the whole time on high alert waiting for something to happen. Both dogs and kids pick up this stress and are more likely to react badly because of it. If you’re uncomfortable with a dog around your kid, ask that he/she be put outside or in a bedroom during the visit. Your elevated stress is half the problem!

  129. What type of dog is in the picture above? I rescued a dog about a year ago and he looks exactly like the dog pictured. I’ve never been able to figure out his breed beyond a boxer mix. Thanks!

  130. I have a question regarding the signs to watch out for. My black lab/hound mix is great with family and listens well in the house, is submissive to me, when passing in the hall he allows me to go first, loves to cuddle and loves lots of attention, but he yawns a lot. I just read that could be a sign to look out for. Why is this? he makes a loud noise when yawning also, just as a human would. Also, I see the whites of his eyes a lot but I never took that as a sign of anything either. He is high energy, so I just interpreted it as him being excited. His eyes seem to be shaped rounder than a lot of dogs, maybe that’s just the shape or excitement, or something else? What do these signs mean?

    • Hi Amie, It’s possible that your dog just has a lower threshold for any stress. So if he is happy and comfortable in the house but still shows some of the signs that we would view as stress signals, then I would consider that his baseline behavior. i wouldn’t be too concerned unless he starting showing more stress. Hope that helps!

  131. They forgot to mention SPAY AND NEUTER, and don’t let a child become between 2 unaltered dogs. Especially if a bitch is in heat or just had pups.

  132. Why are so many dogs growling at and biting kids? If you understand dog behavior … That cannot be allowed. Dogs who live in people’s homes should not be making these kinds of gestures or deciding to bite any human.

    We have a kid and a dog. Our child climbs all over the dog. Our dog doesn’t like it all the time. But our dog will never, ever bite the kid because our dog is fully off the leash trained which includes precise heeling, automatic recall and a forever down-stay, etc. Our dog responds to commands, without a leash, 100% of the time as long as we do work with her on a regular basis and are consistent with her. I live in the city and I will, like with every dog I have had before her (including a rot and an akita), take her outside without a leash because I know that if I say heel she will be at my knee and if I stop while she is in heel she will stop and sit–all at my knee.

    Dogs who bite kids are not properly acclimated to their pack (family). They either think they are in charge or have a stunted intellectual/moral development based on a lack of thorough training/lack of a handler who understands dog behavior and sociology. Our dog won’t bite our child because she knows it would be inappropriate to carry out such a drastic action–and biting for a dog is usually drastic (If it wasn’t a drastic measure on a dog’s part then there would be a whole lot more people getting severely bitten). Every dog is smart enough to know that a small child is no threat to them. Biting a human child is only possible in a dog that has been given an incorrect understanding of its subordinate relationship with the human race.

    Our off the leash trained dog is as happy and as smart and as free as should could be. She doesn’t need a leash, she gets tons of praise because she’s always doing really great things and she would never feel threatened by our child or feel like she needs to make decisions regarding our child’s behavior.

    Please, train your dog. Human beings really, really need to start training their dogs. Not to do tricks or know what sit is to get a treat, but know that sit means sit–so their can be mutual trust between humans and dogs.

  133. I have a American Bulldog Terrier mix, I am having a problem when the kids (ages 8, 10, 11) get hyper he wants to join in and is way to big and tends want to lay on top of my son and lick and nibble his ear. He also will want to hump my daughter or my son. The dog is always told to sit when he starts to get to hyper and told to place in his open cage until the dog calms down. Not sure if we should be doing anything else.

  134. I really wish you didn’t use a picture of a “bully breed” there is enough bad rap about Amstaffs/APBT then to have an article and a dog pictured with children like this just adding more fuel for the fire!

  135. This is going to be super helpful. I’m looking to adopt a 6-month-old Aussie cattle dog/beagle mix who was a stray until about a week before I met her, so the shelter has no idea if she’s good with kids. My boyfriend has twin 1-year-olds. On top of being worried about possible herding behavior, I’m worried about how the dog will react to them. So we’re taking the babies to see her as a last minute factor (although I’m still kind of doubtful because of herding, although I did read you can train them out of any nipping).

    I’ll definitely be watching for these signs (although mostly worried about her hyperactive personality being overwhelming for them).

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  137. I had a great dog. A border collie/lab mix. He never bit, until one day, he did. He was sleeping, and my then three year old brother tripped and fell on him. He reflexively bit his face- it looked bad, but thankfully was superficial. The dog instantly went under the kitchen table and stayed there for hours- I don’t believe he intended to bite, but rather was reacting to the pain and surprise.

    It would have never occurred to me to separate a sleeping dog from a toddler, until that day.

  138. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced
    but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission.

    Do you know any solutions to help prevent content from being ripped off?
    I’d really appreciate it.

  139. Yes, good article. Never let an 8 year old boy have his own dog. Lets breed liberal paranoia and kill any old traditions about a child and his dog friend. Lets not take personal responsibility, let us instead pass some laws saying you need to be 21 to own a dog. Run in fear of everything, it’s the best way to handle things.

  140. People also need to know that a wagging dog isn’t necessarily a happy dog. A dog with a wagging tail isn’t always saying, “I’m ready to play!” He’s saying, “I’m ready to interact.” That interaction could be good or bad, depending on the situation and the rest of his body language. Lots of people get bitten because they think wagging equates to friendliness.

  141. “Why are there an estimated 800,000 Americans seeking medical attention for dog bites each year?”

    Because parents don’t follow the recommendations.

  142. Sadly, I think most people who get pets see them as things to possess and not living, breathing beings. Dogs have psych issues just like people do. They’re not toys. They’re not possessions.

    To most dog owners, these defensive behaviors are actually perceived as “aggressive” behaviors. Very few dogs are actually aggressive. A dog that growls and snaps at you, 99.999% of the time, is defending itself from you, because YOU are doing something wrong, because YOU don’t know how to be a good dog owner, and YOU don’t know how to respect the dog’s boundaries like YOU are supposed to.

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  148. The school must help you understand the different temperaments of dogs so you will be better prepared for your career
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